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Employment Discrimination Alleged for HIV-Positive Status

Employment discrimination takes on many forms, be it sex or sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin or religious affiliation.Our employment attorneys recognize that sometimes these actions can be attributed to an employer’s ignorance of the law. Other times, it is a flagrant disregard for it.

Interestingly, the kind of discrimination being alleged by a former New York City car dealership finance employee would likely not have even been considered a form of discrimination a few decades ago. But because of our expanded understanding and exponential medical advancements in that time frame, there is no reason why an employer should view the following as an acceptable cause of termination: HIV-positive status.

According to media reports, the 43-year-old former employee filed suit with the New York Supreme Court against a dealership in Queens, seeking $4 million in damages.

Specifically, the former worker is alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and retaliation by the employer and individual liability for discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation by three former co-workers.

The plaintiff said that he was hired by the dealership last November, at which time he had about two decades of experience in the automotive industry. At his new position, he earned roughly $10,000 monthly.

Five years ago, the plaintiff said he learned that he was HIV-positive. In the interim, he’d had two other employers, both of which knew of his condition and took no issue with it.

At this office, however, he says it was different.

He said he did not make a secret of the fact that he was homosexual, but neither did he make it a topic up for routine discussion.

Despite having this knowledge, several co-workers – including the general manager of the dealership – allegedly made extremely offensive homophobic remarks, spitting out slurs and discriminatory remarks.

The defendant said he tried to ignore it, but it deeply bothered him.

Then sometime around mid-March, the plaintiff was conversing with the general sales manager when the latter indicated that his brother was HIV-positive, and that due to this, he was no longer welcome at family functions or around his children. The defendant said at that point, he revealed his own HIV-positive status, attempted to dispel the myth that HIV-positive people are dangerous.

His revelation was met with silence and a blank look.

Two days later, the plaintiff was called in for a meeting with his superiors – including the general sales manager. At that time, it was alleged that there was a “problem” with the plaintiff’s work – though none had been hinted to at any point prior. He was then promptly fired.

With no health insurance and only a month’s worth of anti-viral medication left, this discrimination poses a threat to his health as well as his finances.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that there were 200 allegations of discrimination on the basis of HIV last year. That accounted for .08 percent of all disability claims filed in 2012 under the Americans with Disability Act. Compare that to 1997, when there were 323 cases, or nearly 2 percent of all cases that were tracked by the EEOC.

Among some of the other medical conditions for which the EEOC received disability complaints about last year:

  • Anxiety disorders (6.1 percent);
  • Asthma (1.5 percent);
  • Cancer (3.7 percent);
  • Depression (6.7 percent);
  • Diabetes (4.8 percent);
  • Hearing impairment (3 percent);
  • Back injuries (8.9 percent);

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
New York Man Says He Was Fired For Having HIV, April 4, 2013, By Susanna Kim, ABC World News
More Blog Entries:
New York City Bans Employment Status Discrimination, April 15, 2013, New York City Employment Lawyer Blog