Panera Denies Discrimination, Faults Allergic Employee

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News
Published: March 15, 2016

DustinMaldonadoDustin Maldonado. Photo: Handout
The lawsuit filed by a man with multiple food allergies that claims Panera LLC, a division of Panera Bread Co., the man’s former employer, discriminated against him due to his allergies and condoned a hostile work environment, is proceeding to the “discovery” stage where both sides will exchange evidence.

On March 4, 2016, the company also denied any wrongdoing in its official reply to the suit launched by Dustin Maldonado, which it filed in New York federal court. [The suit has since settled. See report here.]

In its point by point reply, Panera’s lawyers state that the company “took reasonable steps to prevent [Maldonado] from being discriminated or retaliated against, including but not limited to adopting policies against such actions applicable to all Panera employees.”

They added that Maldonado “failed, in whole or in part, to take reasonable steps to avoid being discriminated against or retaliated against, including but not limited to repeatedly failing to counsel or discipline any subordinate employees who allegedly engaged in discriminatory or retaliatory behavior, and failing to report many of the alleged acts of discrimination and retaliation in a timely manner.”

In the original complaint filed by Maldonado’s lawyers in November 2015, the former bakery employee contended that “the harassment was not only tolerated by management, but led by management.” Maldonado’s suit made note of multiple incidents in which the café’s general manager engaged in harassment with and without other employees where Maldonado was exposed to his allergens, in at least one case triggering an allergic reaction, according to the man’s legal representatives, Stein & Vargas, LLP.

In its reply, Panera asks the court to “dismiss the complaint in its entirety,” and seeks compensation for legal fees “incurred in defending against plaintiffs’ baseless and frivolous action.”

At the discovery stage, in addition to the exchange of evidence, both parties are required by New York state law to attend “mandatory mediation” in an effort to resolve the dispute before trial.