The country has come a long way over the past 30 years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, there remains a long way to go. Disability is still stigmatized, and the contributions of people with disabilities are underestimated and undervalued. In the workplace, many employers are likely to view an employee’s disability through the lens of what is inconvenient for the company rather than what is legally and morally right.
A good example is a lawsuit recently filed by a man in Texarkana, Texas, against the restaurant where he used to work. According to a complaint the man filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he was fired from his job in the spring of 2019 simply because he is HIV positive. His suit alleges that this constitutes disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Cases like this are often hard to prove because employers don’t always need to cite a reason for firing. And even if they do, they may not disclose the real reason for termination, opting for a legally and socially acceptable pretense instead. But in this particular case, the plaintiff’s manager allegedly told him plainly that he was being fired because the company worried that his HIV status would negatively impact business and revenue.
HIV is now very treatable, and those with the disease are often able to live relatively normal lives as long as they are keeping up with medical requirements. One irony in this case is that the man didn’t need and wasn’t seeking any accommodations related to his HIV. He was allegedly fired simply because of perceived customer concerns, according to news reports.
If you are living and working with a disability, you have the right to expect reasonable accommodations at work as well as the basic respect of being able to do your job without baseless stigma from your employer. Should those rights ever be violated, please speak to an experienced employment law attorney in your area about your legal options.