The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is accusing the operator of numerous McDonald’s locations of disability discrimination over the firing of an employee with autism after 37 years on the job.

In a lawsuit filed this month, the federal agency claims that JDKD Enterprises, LP, which operates several McDonald’s franchises in New Jersey, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it terminated a grill cook with autism just two months after assuming ownership of the restaurant where he worked in Deptford, N.J.

The grill cook had worked at McDonald’s for decades, including about 10 years at the Deptford location, and had received awards for his performance, the EEOC said. His disability was noticeable primarily through his tendency to speak loudly.

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The lawsuit alleges that JDKD Enterprises fired the worker with autism abruptly as a result of his disability even though he maintained excellent performance.

“In this case, the grill cook received awards for excellent job performance during his 37-year career with McDonald’s,” said Debra M. Lawrence, regional attorney with the EEOC. “The only thing that changed was new owners who acted based on his disability, not on his demonstrated outstanding job performance. The purpose of the ADA to eliminate employment discrimination for people with disabilities who are qualified to do the job, and that is why we filed this lawsuit. The EEOC will continue to stand up for job discrimination victims.”

The EEOC said it attempted to reach a settlement with the McDonald’s operator before filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The agency is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the grill cook, among other remedies.

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