Thursday, May 10, 2012

HIV/AIDS in Employment is nothing New

Recently, a wrongful termination lawsuit was filed against The Ivy, a Los Angeles restaurant famous for its high-end customers such as Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, and Jennifer Aniston.

Reymundo Martinez, its former employee, filed the lawsuit at the California Supreme Court with the help of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The reason: he was allegedly discriminated against and terminated by The Ivy for being HIV-positive.

Martinez worked at The Ivy for five months as a busser. During his stint at the restaurant, on December 2010, he was diagnosed with HIV. He took medication after a month, but the drugs’ strong side effects forced him to stay home for a day. However, The Ivy management told him not to return to work for the remainder of the week.

His doctor promptly requested The Ivy to facilitate Martinez’s request on work schedule change. However, the restaurant management denied Martinez accommodations. He was terminated immediately.

Martinez is yet another victim of discrimination for being HIV-positive. This also shows that employment discrimination on the basis of medical condition is not new in the society. A lot of cases concerning people with HIV or AIDS have been brought up to people’s consciousness ever since the disease was made known to the world in the 1980s.

One notable example would be the case of Geoffrey Bowers in 1987. Bowers became an associate attorney at Baker & McKenzie in 1984. Two years later, he was dismissed from the law firm without proper termination processes and despite being given a satisfactory evaluation.

He filed a discrimination lawsuit the next year. Bowers believed that he was fired not because of poor performance evaluation, but because of the lesions on his skin brought by AIDS. Bowers died two months into the hearings, but 6 years later, the case was resolved. Bower’s family received a staggering $500,000 in compensatory damages and back pay.

HIV-positive employees today are now protected by federal and state employment laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against them in all aspects of employment. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is one such particular law that makes it illegal for an employer to refuse reasonable accommodation to HIV-positive workers.

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