Restaurant 'Fires' Customer in Support of Employee with Disability

A restaurant owner in Anchorage, Alaska, has “fired” one of her customers following his disrespect and mistreatment of an employee who has autism.

P.J. Gialopsos, owner of Little Italy Restaurante, said that an irate customer called the restaurant last month complaining about the service of its delivery drivers.

Gialopsos’s daughter, who took the call, was subjected to ridicule and profanity as the caller claimed the driver mixed up the order and was under the influence of drugs.Even after the daughter attempted to explain that the employee suffers from social awkwardness due to having autism, the customer continued berating the employee.

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Upon the driver’s return, Gialopsos could see he was distraught.

“He came into my office a little shaken because the customer was angry,” Gialopsos wrote in a Facebook post about the incident. “He had mixed up the pouch of food but quickly retrieved the correct order from his car. Mistakes are made all the time in the course of a business life, and when we make them we do our very best to correct the problem immediately. That didn’t satisfy this man. He berated him, and then called him a name I won’t even allude to.”

That was when Gialopsos decided to “fire” the customer by instructing her staff not to accept phone calls, delivery orders or reservations from that customer.

And Gialopsos did not stop there. She took to Facebook to notify the public about the incident and that behavior like this customer’s would not be accepted. The owner said although the driver did not want to be named or interviewed, he was thrilled with her decision not to accept business from the customer and the response to the Facebook post.

“He just wants to work,” she said.

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According to the National Organization on Disability (NOD), 20 percent of the U.S. population has a disability, making people with disabilities the country’s largest minority group. However, they are also severely unemployed or underemployed: the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2014, only 17.1 percent of people with disabilities were employed.

But as people begin to see the benefits of hiring from the people with disabilities talent pool, there have been some areas of improvement. This year, the U.S. federal government hit a record high of employees with disabilities. In 2014, 13.56 percent of the federal government was comprised of employees with disabilities an increase of .76 percentage points. New hires with disabilities increased as well, hitting 19.74 percent in 2014, a jump of 1.56 percentage points from the previous year.

In Gialopsos’ case, choosing to hire an employee with a disability has been a good business decision: the young man has worked at the restaurant for two years and is an exemplary employee. She said he is “an accomplished University student” and works hard. All of this comes from the Facebook post that to date has over 32,000 likes and has been shared almost 8,000 times. Gialopsos said she was surprised by the post’s success.

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Although Gialopsos is overwhelmed by the support of her Facebook community, she is still disappointed that people still hold on to old prejudices.

“You would think, in the year 2015 the majority of the population would have learned or at least heard about autism,” Gialopsos said on Facebook. “I understand that there is a large portion of our population that is content to remain uninformed and uneducated, but that doesn’t give them to right to take that ignorance and turn it into a foul mouthed rant on two of my employees!”

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