The Daily Californian Online

Former McDonald's Worker Files Complaint

By Nick Moore
Contributing Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Category: News > City

Dan McMullan (right), a Berkeley resident, protests the dismissal of a disabled employee from the Downtown McDonald's. The former employee has filed a discrimination complaint.

"You're no longer part of the team."

That's what former Downtown Berkeley McDonald's employee Lisa Craib was told when she arrived at work one day last March. Craib, a Berkeley resident who has Asberger's syndrome, had worked at the fast food franchise for 21 years.

"I was devastated. I had a nervous breakdown. I cried for five days," said Craib, 43.

Craib's dismissal, along with the dismissals of two other disabled employees, took place only two days after the Shattuck Avenue McDonald's was sold to Nick Vergis, who operates a number of McDonald's franchises in the Bay Area.

Craib said Mike Maddy, the restaurant's former owner, was sympathetic to her condition and hired her and two other workers with disabilities. Maddy said he personally liked Craib and encouraged her work at the restaurant.

Just days after being fired, Craib saw a sign in the McDonald's window stating "Now Hiring-Equal Opportunity Employer."

Craib filed a discrimination complaint last week under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prevents discrimination toward disabled workers. Assisting her is the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center, a non-profit law organization in San Francisco that helps low-income individuals with employment problems.

"It's difficult for people to know what their rights are, and what to do when they encounter this kind of situation," said Claudia Center, Craib's legal representative and senior staff attorney at the Employment Law Center.

Craib's supporters protested in front of the Downtown Berkeley McDonald's on Tuesday, holding signs that read, "I'm hatin' it," and passing out information about the situation to customers.

"It's always good to see people come together to fight for anybody weak," said Concord resident Henry Johnson, who purchased a meal from the restaurant as protesters demonstrated outside.

Though Vergis refused to take questions, he issued a statement.

"I have a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in hiring, termination, or any other aspect of employment," Vergis said in the statement. "I comply with all applicable laws-including the American Disabilities Act."

Maddy said Craib's "performance issues" prompted him to contact California's Employment Development Department, who found a job coach to aid Craib. The job coach was paid for by the state.

"It was an interesting, supportive place," Craib said. "I thought, 'Hey, I have a job, I'm independent.'"

Craib's complaint is being filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which will investigate the charge and determine whether the case should be heard in federal court. If so, Craib could be eligible for compensatory damages, Center said.

Craib's mother, Karola Craib, said Asberger's syndrome, a form of autism, is a hidden disability.

"It's not like other handicaps which are very identifiable. You can't easily see it," she said.

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