Restaurant Franchise Owner Hit with $165K Award in ADA Case

July 30, 2007 ( - A hearing-impaired former Subway restaurant manager has been awarded $165,500 by a federal court jury in a case in which a human resources official was accused of helping to create a hostile work environment by mocking the woman's disability.

A news release from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which sued Dallas Subway franchise holder BobRich Enterprises on behalf of Tammy Gitsham, said the jury awarded Gitsham, a former area supervisor, $66,500 for lost wages and emotional harm and an additional $100,000 in punitive damages.

The EEOC sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination against the disabled.

The EEOC charged in the case that Subway Owner Robert Suarez and his human resources/training manager subjected Gitsham to a disability-based hostile work environment, including teasing and name calling, because she is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids.

The news release said the EEOC charged that Suarez and the HR executive repeatedly mocked Gitsham privately and in front of other employees with taunts such as: “Read My Lips” and “Can you hear me now?” and “You got your ears on?”

“I am very happy with the judgment,” said Gitsham, according to the news release. “It is important for people to realize that they don’t have to put up with this type of mean-spirited treatment from business owners. I feel that I can now move on with my life.”

According to the EEOC, BobRich Enterprises, Inc. has owned and operated as many as 20 Subway stores throughout the Dallas area. Gitsham worked as an area supervisor for Subway, managing between five and 10 stores throughout the area during her year and a half of employment at the franchise.