ROCKFORD, Ill. – A woman born with a condition that resulted in underdeveloped hands and arms is suing a McDonald's restaurant owner, claiming employees refused to serve her when she wanted to use her foot to collect bags of food at a drive-through window.
Dawn Larson was born with Holt-Oram Syndrome and has small hands that extend not far from her shoulders. She has adapted by using her feet for many activities.
“I drank my baby bottle with my feet. Nobody ever taught me how to do it, I just did it,” Larson said. “I can ride a regular 10-speed bike. I can swim. It has not been a problem in my life at all. It didn't stop me from having four boys. I've never dropped one of them.”
In a lawsuit filed last week in Winnebago County Circuit Court, she alleges employees at two different McDonald's restaurants in Rockford recoiled when she tried to retrieve her food using her foot.
In both incidents, employees eventually agreed to give Larson's food to other people in her vehicle, including her son and a friend, the lawsuit alleges. Both times, cashiers at different windows took her credit card from her foot with no problem.
“I felt discriminated against, harassed, embarrassed,” Larson said. “All I wanted was the food I had paid for with my money card. I just wanted to feed my kids.”
Larry Taylor, director of operations for McDonald's Restaurants of Illinois Inc., which owns the two restaurants, said in a statement e-mailed to the Chicago Sun-Times that the company had not seen the lawsuit but has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination in its restaurants.
“We care very much about our customers and take this allegation seriously,” Taylor said. “We do our very best to serve our customers with the utmost care and respect.”
Also, from CBS, more details:
(CBS) ROCKFORD, Ill. A genetic syndrome has left Illinois resident Dawn Larson without hands or fully developed arms.
Larson has learned to lead a full life by using her feet. She's even able to drive.
She says she's never had a problem in public until she went through a McDonald's drive-thru in Rockford last fall. Normally, Larson first gives the cashier her debit card to pay for the order and then grabs the food and drink with both feet.
But at McDonald's she said they took her money at one window but wouldn't give her the food at the next window. Larson says she felt degraded.
"I reached my foot out the window to grab the food," says Larson. "She set the food down, raised her hands up really high in the air and slammed them down on the counter. This was like violently."
"'I am not doing this,' she screamed that at me, 'Absolutely not doin' this.'"
The restaurant offered her a $10 gift certificate. She then contacted a lawyer and two months later experienced the same thing at a different Rockford McDonald's.
Now she's suing the company for $4 million and wants it to improve employee training.
"She was asking for no special accommodations, she just wanted to be treated like everyone else. And that's where I believe McDonald's certainly violated her rights," said Laurel Wykes Smith, Dawn's Attorney.
McDonald's says it can't comment on Larson's lawsuit but it has a strict policy against any discrimination in its restaurants.