Retarded Employee Subjected to Physical and Verbal Harassment, Forced to Resign
Newark, NJ, August 21, 2002 - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) has filed a federal lawsuit against
Spylen of Denville, Inc. (doing business as Wendy's),
charging that the company violated Title I of the Americans
with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) when its employees
created, and its managers failed to correct, a hostile work
environment directed toward Thomas Sillito because of his
disability (mental retardation), and forced him to resign
as a consequence.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, charges that throughout his employment, Sillito was
subjected to physical and verbal abuse. Examples of the
abuse include thrusting a butcher's knife at his stomach,
punching him, pushing him, throwing water in his face, and
putting ice down his shirt. Despite frequent complaints to
them, Spylen's managers failed to investigate and remedy
the hostile work environment. Due to the continuing
humiliating and physically threatening conduct, Sillito was
forced to resign. The suit alleges that his resignation
was, in effect, a discharge caused by his disability and a
separate violation of the ADA.
The ADA makes it illegal to deny a person an
employment opportunity because of his or her disability.
This includes the opportunity to work in an environment
free of abusive behavior directed at an employee because of
his or her disability. Moreover, an employer can be held
liable for the effects of such harassment including the
economic consequences of forcing a person to resign.
The Commission initiated the litigation after an
investigation by its Newark office confirmed that the
restaurant violated the ADA and the Agency exhausted its
conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation
EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Jaqueline McNair
said, "The frequency and the threatening and humiliating
character of the harassment Mr. Sillito was made to endure
- and the willful reluctance of the restaurant's managers
to address the problem - are clear examples of the type of
discrimination Congress intended to eliminate with the
passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act over a
The EEOC seeks to eliminate the discriminatory
practices alleged in the case and have Spylen of Denville
compensate Sillito for his monetary losses and the
emotional pain and humiliation he experienced.
The Commission noted that it has observed an
increasing trend of ADA charge filings alleging disability-
based harassment. From Fiscal Years 1993 to 2001, such
charges have nearly doubled from approximately 1,400 to
2,400 filed per year with EEOC offices nationwide.
In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, the EEOC
enforces Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which
addresses denial of employment opportunity because of race,
color, sex, religion and national origin; the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers
age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the
Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination
affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal
government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Further information about the Commission is available on
the Agency's Web site.