A New York KFC franchise is in the deep fryer after employees allegedly refused to serve a disabled Iraq War veteran who worked at Ground Zero after he brought his service dog into the chicken joint.
Charles Hernandez, a 50-year old retired public school administrator, claims that employees at a Bronx KFC restaurant wouldn’t serve him the Colonel’s original recipe because he broke restaurant policy in bringing Valor, his 4-year-old black Labrador retriever and Great Dane, inside with him.
“Papi, there are no dogs allowed,” an employee allegedly told the vet on Feb. 26, according to the New York Daily News.
Hernandez is now suing the chicken joint for $1 million, claiming that the incident humiliated him and exacerbated his post-traumatic stress disorder. He uses Valor to assist him with balance, prevent panic attacks and even wake him from his night terrors.
“I was frustrated, angry and more, depressed,” Hernandez told the New York Post. “No one was helping. Rather than understanding the needs of a person, they shut me out.”
The vet said he tried to reason with the employees at KFC, invoking the Americans with Disabilities Act, which permits service animals in public spots, but the cranky chicken slingers wouldn’t budge. Hernandez said that he became even angrier when the restaurant’s manager, Sade Clark, observed the “discrimination” and “refused to do anything.”
“The dog has just as many rights as they do,” he told the Post. “He doesn’t bark or bite unless he is threatened. He’s my security blanket. He keeps me grounded.”
Hernandez’s suit claims that the KFC worker violated federal, state and city laws and caused Hernandez unnecessary distress. Besides Clark, the suit names restaurant owner, Star Partner Enterprises Two LLC, and that company’s principal owner, Thomas Rose.
“It’s unfortunate that when disabled veterans return from war … they are confronted with ignorance and discrimination,” Hernandez’s lawyer David Lackowitz told the Daily News.
For his part, this isn’t the first time the wounded vet has received discrimination for his service dog. In 2011, he won an undisclosed settlement after suing a McDonald’s in Times Square over a similar experience.
“My wounds are invisible,” he said.