Plaintiff Robert Johnson filed suit against his former employer, Ferraro Foods, Inc. and Ferraro Foods of Maryland, LLC on Thursday in the District of Maryland. The plaintiff is alleging that the defendant discriminated against him, an ongoing action which ultimately resulted in his unlawful termination.
Ferraro Foods is a “specialty foodservice distributor that primarily serves the Italian restaurant and pizzeria segment in the Eastern United States.” In mid 2019, plaintiff Johnson began employment with the defendant as their Vice President of Operations, taking responsibilities in Connecticut, Maryland, and North Carolina. Though his responsibilities spanned multiple states, his primary work location was the company’s location in Maryland. His position with Ferraro Foods allowed him “vacation days, sick days, and other fringe benefits including short-term and long-term disability leave.”
After a “largely successful” first eight months with Ferraro Foods, Johnson experienced the rupturing of his spleen while at the office in early 2020. He had been managing his spleen-related disability up until then without missing a day of work. Following the rupture, Johnson stayed in the hospital for 10 days and kept his employer informed regarding his medical situation.
Johnson was eventually released from the hospital though he was not cleared to work for a few weeks. He informed the human resources director at Ferraro Foods of this contingency, as well as the fact that additional issues caused by the rupture were conditions he would be managing “for the foreseeable future.” The human resources director discouraged him from using any disability-leave benefits.
At this time, Johnson alleges that his employer began searching for his replacement though they attempted to conceal their search by calling the position “Director of Corporate Operations” and telling potential candidates to “keep everything quiet.”
According to the complaint, when Johnson returned to work a few weeks later, he discovered that “many of his job duties had been permanently reassigned to other employees and that his role with the company had been effectively marginalized.” Johnson questioned a high-level individual at Ferraro Foods who told him that “if I had known you were dealing with these health issues, I wouldn’t have hired you to begin with.”
From that point forward, Johnson was consistently blamed for job-related problems until he was terminated on July 14, 2020, due to job performance issues. When Johnson asked for further details, the defendant allegedly refused to provide any. Johnson claims that Ferraro Foods has a pattern and practice where disabled individuals are “targeted, marginalized, and eventually removed from the company so that the company will not have to provide accommodations and other disability-related benefits.”
The complaint cites violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act. Johnson is seeking favorable judgements on each count, front and back pay, lost benefits, compensatory damages for pain, humiliation, emotional distress, and damage to reputation, punitive damages, and any other relief deemed proper by the Court.The plaintiff is represented by Cohen & Grace, LLC.