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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    P.F. Chang's is Sued for Extra Charges on Gluten-Free Menu Items

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--Mark Crawley

    Celiac.com 02/02/2015 - On December 9th, 2014, Anna Marie Phillips filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc., headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, for discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims that P.F. Chang's forces people with celiac disease to pay higher prices for gluten-free versions of their menu items. According to the complaint, P.F. Chang's charges one extra dollar per gluten-free item, however, they do not add these surcharges on to their regular menu items.

    Photo: CC--Mark CrawleyThe lawsuit is seeking class action status, and claims that over the past four years more than 3,000 people in 39 states have been affected at P.F. Chang's 204 restaurants. The plaintiff claims that the gluten-free diet is medically necessary for those with celiac disease, and those who eat at P.F. Chang's are forced to pay higher prices for gluten-free dishes, even if the dishes they order are naturally gluten-free. The plaintiff asserts that this arbitrary and unequal treatment constitues discrimination against consumers who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and that the added surcharge is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    In the lawsuit Ms. Phillips and her attorneys, Anthony J. Orshansky and Justin Kachadoorian of Counselone, P.C. in Beverly Hills, California, seek an immediate injunction against any further surcharges on gluten-free items, civil penalties, compensatory damages and punitive damages. P.F. Chang's is represented by Jon P. Karbassakis and Michael K. Grimaldi of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, in Los Angeles, California.

    On January 23, 2015, P.F. Chang's removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (case number 5:15-cv-00344).

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    Really?!?

    I hope this frivolous lawsuit gets thrown out. Although, the damage may already be done. People, in general, are already sick of hearing about our illness. My hope is that this doesn't make it harder to accommodate our needs.

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    Thanks for bringing this news story to our attention. I was fuming when I heard about this frivolous lawsuit. I agree with so many of the comments here, indicating appreciation for a restaurant that does such a good job of accommodating gluten-free as P.F. Chang's does and that we don't mind paying a little extra. Maybe if we each jot a note or send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's showing them our appreciation and support, that would show them how so many of us feel.

    Good idea, heather!

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    Do restaurants put a surcharge on food for mobility-handicapped people because they have to fit their establishments with handicapped restrooms, entryways, etc.? Celiac and mobility-handicapped are both covered under the ADA and require restaurant owners to make accommodations. Why is only the former penalized with higher prices?

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    Now we have to move forward with companies that manufacture gluten-free products and grocery store that charge 3 times or more for gluten-free products compared to others.

    You have to realize that wheat is cheap food because it has been subsidized, everybody is indoctrinated since infancy to be brainwashed, ignorant and addicted to the gluten peptides that bind to our opiate receptors in our brains. There is a century of perfection of machinery designed for the harvest, storage and processing. All of agriculture and corporate food processing has been invested in and paid off, leaving an addictive flow of profit. How long will it take for the design, development and payoff of machinery for many different completely different plants that supply gluten-free alternatives?

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    It costs more to make a gluten-free entree and I expect to pay more. This is a junk suit that should be dismissed. I want more restaurants to offer gluten-free fare. And I want them to make money doing so. Then my choices will expand. This will not help. Throw it out!

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    I think that this suit should be dismissed with prejudice.

     

    A restaurant is in business to make money, NOT provide a public service.

     

    It costs more to make an allergen free menu item, as well as guarantee that said item is not contaminated by those allergens in the kitchen.

     

    I am sure that if you looked you would find many articles touting PF Chang as a leader and innovator in the offering of gluten free menu items, and having them many years before any other restaurant chain.

     

    To sue them and claim they are violating the ADA because they have the nerve to want to make a profit on those offerings will serve only to tell restaurant operators that it is NOT WORTH IT to try and sell gluten free products because you may be sued over someone's opinion that you charge too much and are thus discriminating against disabled Americans.

    This was my first thought when I read this. It is my understanding that P.F. Chang's has a dedicated gluten free kitchen where they prepare the gluten free dishes to avoid cross contamination. I believe all of the items served as gluten free come out of this area, including items that are naturally gluten free. It costs money to maintain this separate area. I would hate to see them, or any other restaurants that are truly trying to provide gluten free meals to discontinue due to suits like this.

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    I go to P.F. Chang's because they have the gluten-free menu. The people have always bent over backwards when they find out have celiac disease. They've even given us coupons for free appetizers and brought us out complementary items. The waiters are extremely attentive to our requests. I appreciate their special plates and dishes that show all the wait staff that our food is gluten-free. These extras do cost more! I appreciate that they have special prep areas for gluten-free even if it is the same food on the menu. This law suit is ridiculous!

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    I think that this suit should be dismissed with prejudice.

     

    A restaurant is in business to make money, NOT provide a public service.

     

    It costs more to make an allergen free menu item, as well as guarantee that said item is not contaminated by those allergens in the kitchen.

     

    I am sure that if you looked you would find many articles touting PF Chang as a leader and innovator in the offering of gluten free menu items, and having them many years before any other restaurant chain.

     

    To sue them and claim they are violating the ADA because they have the nerve to want to make a profit on those offerings will serve only to tell restaurant operators that it is NOT WORTH IT to try and sell gluten free products because you may be sued over someone's opinion that you charge too much and are thus discriminating against disabled Americans.

    Actually, most restaurants do not guarantee there won't be any cross-contamination. They put a disclaimer on the gluten-free menus indicating possible cross-contamination.

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    Thanks for bringing this news story to our attention. I was fuming when I heard about this frivolous lawsuit. I agree with so many of the comments here, indicating appreciation for a restaurant that does such a good job of accommodating gluten-free as P.F. Chang's does and that we don't mind paying a little extra. Maybe if we each jot a note or send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's showing them our appreciation and support, that would show them how so many of us feel.

    We love P.F. Chang's. It is one of the ONLY places we feel safe eating. Anna Marie Phillips, you are doing a disservice to celiacs everywhere through your ridiculous, selfish lawsuit. If you have a problem paying $1.00 extra for their extra care and attention, you should not eat out anywhere. Do you plan to go after all of the gluten-free food manufacturers in your quest for compensation? This is positively shameful. I applaud P.F. Chang's for their awesome menu and the respectful way they attend to their gluten-free guests. I would eat there every week if I could (and I would pay an extra dollar without batting an eye!).

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    I am sorry that you do not understand the pain and suffering that we celiacs go through when we are "glutened". I have been gluten free for over 35 years and still suffer extreme pain when I am glutened . Many have cancer before they are diagnosed, please do not downplay the need for gluten free. These establishment who are trying to allow us to eat out are doing a valued service and should be encouraged, not discouraged.

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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