It was only a few decades ago that HIV and AIDS were new, incurable and widely considered among the scariest diseases a person could have. Science and public opinion have come an amazingly long way since that time, to the point where it is somewhat rare to hear about a case in which an employee faces discrimination due to their HIV status. Unfortunately, stigma and ignorance haven’t entirely left this issue.
If you or someone you know suffers from HIV/AIDs, it is important to understand your employment rights and legal protections under both federal law and Michigan law. In this post, we’ll discuss those rights as well as a recent case of alleged discrimination that occurred in another state.
Lawsuit claims man was fired simply for being HIV positive
According to news reports, a man in Texarkana, Texas, has filed a federal lawsuit against the owners of a local restaurant he was fired from in March 2019. The plaintiff claims the general manager of the restaurant specifically told him he was being fired because of his HIV status, and the manager worried that news of it would hurt the restaurant’s business/revenue.
After being fired, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His lawsuit seeks compensation in the form of back pay and front pay, bonuses and other benefits. He also wants the defendants to pay punitive damages, court fees and attorney fees.
Employees with HIV/AIDs have federal and state protections
HIV and AIDS are considered disabilities. As such, workers with these conditions are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Not only does the ADA prohibit discrimination based a person’s HIV/AIDS diagnosis; it also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who request them.
The need for accommodations is often what prompts employers to (illegally) fire workers with disabilities (because they don’t want the hassle or expense). In this case, however, the plaintiff alleges that he wasn’t seeking any accommodations and was able to perform his job duties without them.
Here in Michigan, state law also protects workers with HIV/AIDS based on the same reasoning that such actions would violate disability discrimination laws. If you were to lose your job or fail to be hired due to your HIV/AIDS status, you could file a complaint with a state or federal agency.
If you have questions about your workplace rights here in Michigan, please reach out to an experienced employment law attorney for answers and to learn more about your legal options.