EEOC Sues Golden Corral for Disability, Sexual Harassment and Discharge of An Autistic Employee

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleges a Golden Corral restaurant in Matthews, North Carolina, discriminated against an employee with a disability. It subjected him to a hostile work environment based on both his disability and his sex (male). The lawsuit also alleges that the employee resigned because of the harassment. 

According to the EEOC, Sean Fernandez worked as a dishwasher at the North Carolina Golden Corral. Fernandez has high-functioning autism, which limits his ability to communicate and interact with others. From around March or April 2014 until January 2016, a male assistant manager created a hostile work environment. The assistant manager repeatedly referred to Fernandez as a “retard,” calling him “stupid,” using profanity, requesting oral sex, threatening to sexually assault him, and subjecting him to unwanted physical contact. Fernandez filed a complaint and requested to be moved to a different shift, so that he would not have to work with the male assistant manager. Fernandez resigned due to the harassment after he was reassigned to work with the same male assistant manager who regularly sexually harassed him. 

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities. As well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. “All employees, men and women alike, are entitled to a workplace free from sexual harassment,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Likewise, all employees have the right to work without being harassed due to their disabilities. It is particularly alarming when harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor.”



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