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A $125,000 settlement of a disability harassment lawsuit against the Olive Garden restaurant was announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Wednesday. The suit alleged that the restaurant, owned and operated by GMRI Inc., discriminated against a kitchen worker in its Concord, N.H., restaurant by harassing and terminating him on the basis of his mental retardation disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). According to the suit, management and coworkers of the Olive Garden subjected the employee to daily physical and verbal abuse because of his mental impairment. The harassment included putting the worker in a headlock, pulling down his pants in front of coworkers, and offensive name-calling and teasing. The restaurant then terminated his employment as a result of the discrimination. A consent decree containing the terms of the settlement has been submitted for the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe of the District of New Hampshire. In addition to the monetary relief, Olive Garden, which has over 60,000 employees, has agreed to nationwide training of its managers concerning disability-based harassment and the reasonable accommodation of persons with disabilities, including those with mental retardation. In particular, Olive Garden has agreed that, as a reasonable accommodation to employees with mental retardation, it will involve the employee’s identified guardian (and where the guardian consents, the employee’s job coach) in resolving performance-related issues. Olive Garden, which did not admit to liability under the settlement, has also agreed to revise and expand the anti-harassment policy in its employee handbook and to post this revised policy in each of its more than 478 restaurants. The EEOC was joined in the litigation by the New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center Inc. The organization is New Hampshire’s designated protection and advocacy agency, which is authorized by federal statute to pursue legal and other remedies on behalf of persons with disabilities. � 2002, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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