On May 4, 2021, a Federal Court jury awarded more than $2 million to a former minimum wage Burger King employee represented by Lytle & Barszcz who sued after she was fired on the job solely because she had to use a visible trachea tube to breathe.
Following a two-day trial in the U.S. District Court in Orlando, the jury found for Ashley Merard against franchise operator Magic Burgers LLC in her Americans with Disabilities Act suit. Merard’s suit alleged that a Burger King manager fired her in 2017 because of her disability. Merard was a minimum wage worker and had been employed less than one (1) month at the franchise. About a year before working for the company in 2017, she was in a horrific car accident that led to her needing the trachea tube in order to breathe. Merard was hired by a manager who was informed about the tube and saw it during her initial interview, but a “higher management official” then came to the store after she started working and said she had to go because of the tube.
The jury’s award includes $2 million in punitive damages, as well as $30,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, and $15,519.60 for lost wages.
The case is Ashley Merard v. Magic Burgers LLC, case number 6: 19-cv-01864, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
She was hired by a general manager who was informed about the tube and saw it during her initial interview, but a “higher management official” then came to the store after she started working and said she had to go because of the tube, the lawsuit says. She was terminated in August 2017, “for no other reason given other than her disability,” according to the lawsuit, which sought damages for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “You can’t tell her to take the tube out. She’d die,” Barszcz said. “It’s a question of right and wrong, and that’s wrong.”
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