An HIV positive man is suing a San Francisco travel agency, claiming it discriminated against him, harassed him, and disclosed his private medical information. He has worked for the company since 2008.
The man, who is gay, says that when he started working for the company in October 2008, he did not tell the company about his HIV diagnosis. By law, an employee or potential employee does not have to tell his or her employee about any health issues he or she may have.
According to the man, in March 2009, his manager asked him about having HIV, and the man hesitantly admitted that he was HIV positive. He asked that the information be kept private, and did not request any special accommodations. He was fearful of telling anyone at work about his diagnosis, because a coworker had told him that the man who had previously held his job had been fired because he was HIV positive.
The man began working from home in May 2009, and says at that time he noticed he was being treated differently than other employees. He also says that his employment performance was being measured differently than other employees. He complained about mistreatment throughout his employment.
One way in which his former supervisor antagonized him was by writing on the schedule calendar that the employee was “in SF, ask me what I am doing here.” His supervisor would write that when he knew the employee was in the city for a doctor’s appointment related to the HIV diagnosis. The man said that the calendar issue, as well as other actions by the defendant, caused him to believe his diagnosis had been disclosed to others. He was also yelled at to “speak English” (English was his second language). He claims that he was demoted, excluded from office events, and denied overtime.
The man is still employed by the travel agency, but is on disability for stress and depression. The travel agency has refused to comment on the case. The plaintiff has previously alleged national origin and ethnicity discrimination against another travel agency that employed him, and received roughly $50,000 in a settlement.
It’s often surprising to many people that gays and lesbians, as well as those who are HIV positive, are discriminated against in the workplace. HIV and AIDS are not new, unknown diseases any longer, and research has shown us over the years that HIV cannot be spread through casual contact. However, despite all the progress that has been made in the area of civil rights, many people in the U.S. are discriminated against daily because they are gay or HIV positive.
Federal and state laws offer protections against discrimination in the workplace. Under federal and state law, employees or potential employees cannot be discriminated against because of race, age, disability (including HIV or AIDS), sex, religion, national origin/ethnicity, or a number of other factors. In addition, it’s illegal under California law to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of sexual orientation.
Despite the protections in place, many employers either participate in discrimination and/or harassment, or allow it to take place. If that happens to you, you can sue your employer in state and/or federal court. You may also choose to file complaints with the appropriate federal and state agencies.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees should be evaluated on the basis of their performance, not on the basis of their medical diagnosis or their sexual orientation. If you have suffered discrimination in the workplace, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco employment discrimination attorney at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case. Call today to learn more.