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HIV/AIDS Discrimination and Workplace Harassment under the ADA

above-the-bar-logo-no12.jpgThe EEOC recently filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest turkey producer, Butterball, LLC, alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by subjecting an employee to a hostile work environment because she was HIV-positive and then terminated her employment because of her disability. The EEOC is seeking monetary damages as well as injunctive relief on behalf of the fired employee, Tracy Montgomery. Our attorneys have helped many employees resolve their ADA claims with their employers. If you have been discriminated against or suffered from a hostile work environment because of a disability under the ADA, our attorneys can help you figure out your best options.

The EEOC’s charged that Montgomery was subjected to harassment during her employment at Butterball in October and November of 2009. Three of her co-workers told her everyday that they did not want to touch her or work with her because of her being HIV-positive. The three employees also used derogatory names to describe her HIV status when talking about her. Although Montgomery complained about the harassment to her supervisor almost every day, the harassment continued. The EEOC charges also allege that Butterball’s plant manager knew about the harassment against Montgomery. Although he had a meeting with Montgomery and one of her co-workers to discuss an altercation provoked by the co-worker, he fired Montgomery the next day.

The ADA prohibits private employers as well as state and local governments with 15 or more employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities with respect to hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, job training, and terms and conditions of employment. An individual with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment. The ADA also provides that if an individual has HIV or AIDS, he or she is considered to be disabled under the Act and is therefore protected under the ADA.

Lynette A. Barnes, the regional attorney for the The EEOC’s Charlotte District, stated that “Harassment that targets a person with an ADA-covered disability, is just as much a violation of federal law as harassment based on a person’s race, color, gender, age, religion, or national origin.” She added that “HIV/AIDS has always been a sensitive health issue, and an employer has no excuse for failing to intervene when an employee complains of vicious harassment based on her HIV status.”

President Obama has also directed federal agencies to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which includes addressing and preventing employment discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS.

The EEOC’s complaint here clearly shows that the government will not hesitate to go after any employer who discriminates or subjects an employee to a hostile work environment because of his or her HIV or AIDS status. If an employee with a disability or a perceived disability complains about discrimination or harassment from a co-worker, investigate the complaint in a quick and efficient manner. Our attorneys have helped many businesses investigate and evaluate claims of discrimination under the ADA as well Title VII. Call our ADA Attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala at (800) 893-9645 if any of your employees have charged your company with violating the ADA.


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Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act, EEOC Butterball Sued by EEOC for Harassment, Firing of HIV-Postive Employee, EEOC Press Release

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