James White, a former HIV+ employee of Great Expressions Dental, claims that he faced discrimination and harassment after the company learned of his disability. He alleges that, among other things, the company permitted co-workers to follow him around with Lysol, forbade him from touching doorknobs, unfairly disciplined him, and terminated his employment because of his HIV+ status. According to Mr. White’s representatives, Detroit Legal Services, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued Mr. White a letter which states that its investigation corroborated his allegations against Great Expressions Dental.
Great Expressions Dental has now taken the unusual step of suing Mr. White and his supporters over the allegations. It sued Mr. White seeking a declaratory judgment which will dismiss his case. It sued some of Mr. White’s supporters because they posted petitions online which the company claims contain false accusations. Detroit Legal Services’ President said in response to the company’s lawsuits, “we are outraged by the further, relentless discrimination and bullying toward an individual who has been traumatized more than anyone should ever be.”
It is a violation of federal and Maine state law for an employer to discriminate against or harass an employee because he has a disability such as HIV. As this case demonstrates, even if the EEOC finds in your favor, many employers will fight tooth and nail to defend themselves against allegations of discrimination and harassment. So, if you’ve experienced disability discrimination or harassment at work, you should seek the advice of an experienced employment attorney.