A Chicago restaurant has gone into damage control this past week after firing an employee who asked for time to have surgery for his cancer. In an interview with NBC Chicago aired Saturday, 19-year-old Jonathan Larson, a delivery driver for Rosebud Restaurants, explained that the restaurant fired him after he told the employer he needed six weeks after he underwent a scheduled back surgery related to his brain and spine cancer diagnosis.
“[My manager] said, ‘No, by that time I’ll already have another driver hired. Just leave, I have to make some phone calls,” Larson told NBC. “I’m really disappointed and saddened by it. It’s not something I can help.”
The story quickly went viral and caused a backlash, with many people leaving negative comments on Rosebud Restaurants’ Facebook page.
On Saturday, the restaurant posted a statement confirming the Larson report, and announcing that “we want you to know that we’re listening and since learning of the incident have acted swiftly to better understand what transpired.” They also claimed they had spoken to Larson about his position. Then in a subsequent statement, Rosebud indicated it had spoken with Larson’s family and promised that his job would be waiting for him after his cancer treatment.
In a response to the statement, Larson noted that he would meet with restaurant leadership as well as the manager who fired him work toward a resolution.
“Rosebud always strives to treat its employees and customers as family but, in this case, we did not live up to our own expectations,” the statement read. “Like so many, we have been inspired by Jon Larson’s personal strength and perseverance in his battle to beat cancer. We hope Mr. Larson makes a full and speedy recovery and returns to his job with Rosebud soon.”
In a recent comment on Rosebud’s Facebook page, Larson’s mother Debbie Sitko said she was initially “angry along with disappointed and sad for my son” but noted that she is now “please[d] with the way Rosebud is handling the situation at this time.
There are multiple laws providing protection to employees from being fired in such circumstances, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and in Chicago, the Illinois Human Rights Act. Yet in Larson’s specific case, it remains to be seen which law is most applicable for his wrongful termination lawsuit.
The present controversy is not the first for Rosebud Restaurants; the company was sued last year by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly refusing to employ African-Americans in its restaurants. Following that fiasco, former CEO Joseph Taylo brought a separate lawsuit alleging that he was fired because he felt “there may be some merit” to the EEOC lawsuit.