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Celiac.com 5/23/2016 - Plenty of people have followed the news of the woman who sued Chinese food chain P.F. Chang's, claiming that they discriminated against her by charging more for gluten-free dishes than for other non-gluten-free options. Celiac.com covered P.F. Chang's efforts to have the suit dismissed, and also P.F. Chang's failure to prevent the woman from modifying the lawsuit, thus keeping it viable, if only for a time. U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte, of the Northern District of California, had dismissed the original complaint in August, but reinstated the suit once plaintiff Anna Marie Phillips amended her complaint. On Nov. 23, 2015, Whyte ruled that Phillips had sufficiently pleaded her claims in that amended complaint. Many in the restaurant industry were watching the suit carefully since it was first filed in December 2014, as the claim of discrimination, based on higher charges for gluten-free items at P.F. Chang's, could have serious repercussions for the industry as a whole. Phillips has now asked the judge to dismiss her lawsuit. At least for now, the question to whether surcharges or higher charges for gluten-free food options constitute some form of discrimination against those with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, remains un-litigated. The position of the Department of Justice is that celiac disease is not a disability in every case, and that there are plenty of cases in which it is not a disability. Read more at Legal News Line.
Celiac.com 08/05/2015 - Should restaurants be required to provide gluten-free food at the same prices it charges for regular gluten-containing items? That question is at the heart of a lawsuit brought by a woman who claims P.F. Chang's has violated federal anti-discrimination laws by charging more for gluten-free items. A federal judge has now "tentatively" dismissed that lawsuit. P.F. Chang's had asked the judge in February to dismiss Anna Marie Phillips' class action lawsuit, claiming that her celiac disease does not make her a disabled person under the Americans with Disabilities Act. At that time, lawyers for Chang's urged U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte to dismiss the suit to prevent what they termed a 'negative impact' upon restaurant industry as a whole. Phillips originally sued P.F. Chang's in a California state court in December, but the case was later moved to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. According to the motion, the dismissal rests largely on the failure of the plaintiff "to plausibly allege that she is disabled under any applicable statute since her condition constitutes only a minimal limitation on the major life activity of eating." In words that may raise the eyebrows of many people impacted by celiac disease, the judge goes on to say that the plaintiff can "still consume all gluten-free foods. No authority supports plaintiff's baseless position that she is disabled." P.F. Chang's also maintained that, because it charges the same price to all customers of its gluten-free items, it is charging based on the food cost, not adding a surcharge based on the gluten-free status of the customer, and is thus not discriminating on the basis of disability. The class action suit states that because a gluten-free diet is medically necessary for individuals with celiac disease, gluten-free patrons have no choice but to order at the higher price. Phillips brought suit on behalf of persons with celiac disease or gluten intolerance who ordered items from P.F. Chang's gluten-free menu in California within four years prior to the suit. In an interesting legal wrinkle, the CEO of the Celiac Disease Foundation said in a February Legal Newsline article that it did not agree with Phillips' claims. "Celiac Disease Foundation recognizes that restaurants bear a financial burden for the employee training and other accommodations that are required to serve meals that are safe for those with celiac disease," Marilyn G. Geller said. P.F. Chang's cited the article in its motion to dismiss. What do you think? If P.F. Chang's provide gluten-free food in accordance with the law, must it provide the food at the same price as its non-gluten-free items, or can it charge more to reflect its costs? Read more at: Legalnewsline.com