Executive chef sues restaurant for ADA violations

By Jim Boyle | Oct 14, 2014

A former executive chef for a Montgomery County restaurant has sued his ex-employers

A former executive chef for a Montgomery County restaurant has sued his ex-employers

after they failed to provide him accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and fired him after making the request, according to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Fabio Caparra, of Drexel Hill, Pa., seeks declaratory judgments that Maggiano's actions violated the ADA, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, plus compensatory damages for lost back pay and future wages and punitive damages.

According to the complaint, Caparra began working for the restaurant in 2004 as a sous chef, working his way up to executive chef in 2010, one of the highest-level management positions at the King of Prussia branch of the national Italian restaurant chain. The claim says Caparra enjoyed strong job performance reviews throughout his employment and even created recipes added to the national menus by the Texas-based company.

In October 2012, Caparra began to experience extreme back pain. A visit to the doctor revealed he had an acute spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spaces within the spine narrow, placing more pressure on the spinal cord. The diagnosis limited Caparra's ability to stand and walk for prolonged periods.

The suit says Caparra's doctor recommended surgery to treat the condition, but the plaintiff postponed the treatment until the busy holiday season ended, out of concern for the restaurant's needs.

Caparra informed his employers in November 2012 that he would undergo surgery in January, requiring the use of FMLA leave until he finished his recovery. His surgery was performed on Jan. 21, 2013, and his scheduled return date was set for March 27, the complaint says.

His regional manager called Caparra into the restaurant on Feb. 21, 2013, and asked him questions about his surgery and which medications he took for his recovery. The conversation soon turned to matters at the restaurant, and Caparra was asked about issues such as the number of raviolis he served customers.

On Feb. 27, Caparra received a doctor's note that would allow him to return to work at an earlier date, but with some accommodations. For the first week of his return, Caparra could only work three days. During the following six weeks, his shift should be limited to five hours, and he should not perform any twisting, lifting or bending for 12 weeks.

The plaintiff submitted the paperwork the next day, and later that afternoon was told he was no longer part of the management team and was terminated from his position. According to the complaint, when Caparra asked for a reason, his manager only said, "Good luck to you."

He was later informed that his termination was a result of misconduct or behavior deemed detrimental to the company, but Caparra never received the basis for the claims. The complaint says he had never received any disciplinary warnings during his employment and alleges that the termination was in retaliation for exercising his FMLA rights.

Caparra is represented by attorneys from Console Law Offices in Philadelphia.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-05722-CDJ.

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