The Olive Garden restaurant chain is not commenting on a lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which claims workers at a Concord restaurant harassed a retarded employee by calling him names and pulling down his pants. NHPR's Trish Anderton reports the suit could set a precedent by establishing disability harrassment as a crime in New England.
JODY TERRIO IS A STRAPPING 35-YEAR OLD WITH MENTAL RETARDATION. TERRIO CAN'T READ OR WRITE AND HAS TROUBLE COMMUNICATING. BUT DESPITE HIS DISABILITY HIS MOTHER SANDY SIGEL SAYS HE'S WORKED FULLTIME EVER SINCE HE GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. IN 1994 TERRIO TOOK A JOB WASHING DISHES AT THE THEN BRAND NEW OLIVE GARDEN RESTAURANT ON LOUDON ROAD. SIGEL SAYS THERE WERE NO PROBLEMS AT FIRST.
003 55 from the time he started work there everything had gone well as far as I was concerned// he always enjoyed his job
BUT IN LATE 1997 SIGEL SAYS HER SON STARTED ACTING RELUCTANT TO GO TO WORK. HE ALSO BEGAN SUFFERING BOUTS OF DIARRHEA THAT SEEMED TO HAVE NO MEDICAL EXPLANATION. FOUR MONTHS LATER HE WAS FIRED.
003 33 the only thing I was told was he was becoming unmanageable, having tantrums and becoming unmagaenable and they couldnt deal with him
SIGEL COMPLAINED TO THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER IN CONCORD. WHEN THE CENTER BEGAN INVESTIGATING, SHE SAYS, THEY UNCOVERED DISTURBING STORIES OF OLIVE GARDEN EMPLOYEES PICKING ON HER SON, CALLING HIM NAMES, AND HUMILIATING HIM. WHEN TERRIO IS UPSET, HE TENDS TO BITE THE BACK OF HIS HAND OR HIT HIMSELF. SIGEL SAYS THAT APPARENTLY EGGED HIS COWORKERS ON.
They seemed to pick up on that and decided it was fun to get him going. // they would walk by and pull his sweatpants down. They would make him try to speed up in his job, and he goes in a regular pace, he's very rote. They would try to get him to speed up and he wd just get frustrated.
THE 1990 AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT PROHIBITS ON THE JOB DISCRIMINATION AGAINST PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES. THE LAWYER FOR THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER, SHEILA ZAKRE, SAYS THE RESTAURANT CLEARLY DISCRIMINATED.
10 17 althought jody was perf capable employee who was committed, showed up every day, was very good worker, the attitutdes of people made work very unpleasant. His dignity was not respected
THE CENTER TOOK THE COMPLAINT TO THE U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, OR E-E-O-C, WHICH AGREED TO SUE. THE CASE COULD SET AN IMPORTANT PRECEDENT FOR OTHER WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES. EEOC LAWYER MARKUS PENZEL SAYS WHILE FEDERAL COURTS IN SOME OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY HAVE ESTABLISHED DISABILITY HARRASSMENT AS A CRIME, IT HASN'T HAPPENED IN THE FIRST CIRCUIT COURT, WHICH COVERS MAINE, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW HAMPSHIRE, PUERTO RICO AND RHODE ISLAND.
I think courts will recog just as w sex or race harrassment theres no place for dis harrassmet in workplace. So one of the goals of this suit wd be to establ clear precedent for that in new eng.
ACTIVISTS SAY THE SUIT COMES AT A CRUCIAL TIME. DONNA WOODFIN IS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE DISABILITY RIGHTS CENTER. SHE POINTS OUT NEW HAMPSHIRE HAS JUST BEGUN MAKING CHANGES TO ITS MEDICAID PROGRAM THAT WILL ENABLE MORE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES TO WORK WITHOUT LOSING THEIR BENEFITS
15 40 I think this is really imp in terms of how employers need to act, and what they need to be aware of as more and more people with dis go into the workplace.
MEANWHILE JODY TERRIO, WHO DECLINED TO BE INTERVIEWED, IS BACK AT WORK. HE'S WASHING DISHES AT ANOTHER CONCORD ESTABLISHMENT, WHERE HIS MOTHER SAYS HE'S HAPPY.
very happy, and they're very happy with him and they're extremely good to him.
THE EEOC LAWSUIT ASKS FOR BACK WAGES, CHANGES IN THE OLIVE GARDEN'S EMPLOYMENT POLICIES, AND AN UNSPECIFIED AMOUNT OF PUNITIVE DAMAGES. NEITHER THE LOCAL RESTAURANT NOR ITS CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS WOULD COMMENT ON THE SUIT. FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE PUBLIC RADIO I'M