Howland man sues Panera

Staff report


A Howland man has sued Panera Bread’s commissary at 3643 Elm Road NE for wrongful termination, claiming he was fired as a result of discrimination against him for having the disease lupus.

Matthew D. Sapp of Anderson Avenue Northeast filed the complaint in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

It is assigned to Judge Peter Kontos.

A message for Panera Bread LLC of St. Louis, which operates the commissary adjacent to the Elm Road Panera Bread restaurant, was not returned Wednesday.

Allen Ryan, director of corporate affairs for the Warren-based Covelli Enterprises, said Covelli Enterprises has no control over and doesn’t run the commissary where Sapp apparently worked.

Many of Panera Bread’s products are made and distributed to Panera Restaurants from the commissary, which is owned and operated by Panera Bread LLC, Ryan said.

Sapp, 24, says he worked for Panera Bread LLC five years and suffered from systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and related disabilities, which are considered disabilities under Ohio law and the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, the lawsuit said.

In October 2012, Sapp advised Panera’s regional human-resource manager and facility manager that his disabilities required an application for long-term medical leave.

About two weeks later, he was fired by the facility manager “due to perfor-mance issues and [the] in- ability to comply with company standards,” the lawsuit said. Sapp argues that he was treated differently than another employee with lupus.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages of more than $25,000 and unspecified punitive damages. His attorney is Raymond Masek of Warren.

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