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Oklahoma mother says Muskogee Pizza Hut discriminated against son

An Oklahoma woman is claiming she and her son were discriminated against when they were asked to leave a Pizza Hut restaurant in Muskogee.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com Published: December 1, 2011

The mother claims food allergies that interfere with “major life activities” are considered disabilities.

Marca Bristo, who helped craft the original Americans with Disabilities Act during the late 1980s, agrees with Smithson.

She served as chairman of the National Council on Disability, a position she was appointed to by former President Bill Clinton.

“I do think she is right to challenge this,” Bristo said of the mother's ordeal. “The law's not black and white, but if a food allergy affects life activities, it's got to be considered a disability and should fall under the act.”

Bristo said the Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, was amended in 2008 to broaden what are considered “major life activities.” She said the changes were necessary because “the courts had narrowed the definition of the law” up to that point.

Eating is listed as major life activity in the amended act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2009.

“I believe her situation is covered,” Bristo said. “But that is just my opinion.”

No plans to sue

Smithson said she has no plans to sue Pizza Hut over what occurred Tuesday. She said she just wants to make sure her son gets a fair shot at living a normal life.

“He's got enough to worry about,” she said. “He's only 2, but he realizes he's not eating the same things we are.

“I just don't think it's right to make him feel that way ... to make him feel like he can't even eat with his own family.”

Smithson said Pizza Hut had no signs indicating a no-outside-food policy, and added that the restaurant lost out on five paying customers by demanding the hamburger and fries be discarded.

“I just want the policies changed,” she said. “That way, when he gets older, he won't have to deal with things like this.”


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