Clarke County

Blind Athens man to get $175K from Papa John’s Pizza to settle discrimination complaint

ATHENS, Ga. — Papa John’s Pizza will pay a blind man $175,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to a release by the EEOC, in 2020, a Papa John’s location in Athens fired a blind man after failing to properly accommodate his service dog while allowing him to work.

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The EEOC complaint said when Michael Barnes applied for the job after hearing the company hired workers with vision impairments, he applied for the job.

Barnes, who is legally blind, spoke to the store’s manager and was hired. The EEOC lawsuit said Barnes was told by the manager that he would not be able to start the job until his accommodation request for his service dog was approved.

“Not allowing blind and visually impaired people to travel to and from work in the way that affords them confidence and independence is akin to telling sighted workers who rely on the flexibility and independence of driving that they may not travel to work by car,” said Karla Gilbride, the EEOC’s general counsel.


Instead of approving the service dog, Papa John’s “denied Barnes‘s accommodation request and fired him before he worked a single shift,” according to the EEOC.

“The ADA protects workers with disabilities by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to afford them an equal opportunity to work. The EEOC is pleased that Mr. Barnes has been compensated and the company agreed to implement training and evaluate its policies to prevent this type of discrimination from occurring again,” Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a statement.

Now, Barnes will receive $175,000 from Papa John’s and the company will be required to train its employees on provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, review its employment policies, and allow monitoring by the EEOC for complaints of discrimination or retaliation.

“We are glad that Papa John’s has agreed to provide training to its employees and hope that in the future, no other job applicant who uses a service dog will experience the discrimination that Mr. Barnes faced,” Gilbride said.

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