Company Discriminatorily Fired HIV-Positive Employees, Federal Agency Charged
INDIANAPOLIS - Zoo Printing, Inc., a commercial printing company headquartered in California with facilities in New Jersey and Kentucky, will pay $110,000 to settle a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC's suit, Zoo Printing violated federal law by firing two employees at its Louisville, Ky., facility because they have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). EEOC further alleged that one of the employees, a former human resources assistant, was fired in retaliation for opposing the company's refusal to hire female or applicants with disabilities and the discriminatory termination of an employee with a disability.
Disability discrimination, including firing an employee because of his or her HIV status, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Firing an employee in retaliation for opposing discriminatory employment practices, including against people with disabilities and women, violates the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-00727-DJH) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief to the two terminated employees, the consent decree settling the suit prohibits Zoo Printing from engaging in future discrimination against disabled employees or applicants and from retaliating against individuals who exercise their rights to complain about discrimination or assist in an investigation or discrimination-related proceeding. Zoo Printing must also ensure equal employment opportunities are afforded to employees and applicants, regardless of disability status, as well as post a notice of non-discrimination at its Kentucky facility, provide EEO training to its employees, and make periodic reports to EEOC.
"Firing an employee summarily just because he or she is HIV-positive is not only unfair and counterproductive, it's illegal under federal law," said EEOC Supervisory Attorney Michelle Eisele. "Further, no employer is entitled to punish an employee for standing up to discrimination. EEOC is here to enforce those laws and defend the rights of the victims of such unlawful practices."
EEOC has a long history of enforcing the nondiscrimination rights of individuals with HIV infection in employment. During fiscal year 2014 alone, EEOC resolved almost 200 charges of discrimination based on HIV status, obtaining over $825,000 for job applicants and employees with HIV who were unlawfully denied employment and reasonable accommodations. On Dec. 1, 2015, EEOC issued two publications on the rights of job applicants and employees who have HIV infections.
The EEOC publication Living With HIV Infection: Your Legal Rights in the Workplace Under the ADA explains that applicants and employees are protected from employment discrimination and harassment based on HIV infection, and that individuals with HIV infection have a right to reasonable accommodations at work. It also answers questions about the process for obtaining an accommodation; possible accommodations; the privacy rights of people who have HIV infection; the employer's obligation to keep medical information confidential; and the role of EEOC in enforcing the rights of people with disabilities.
Another EEOC publication, Helping Patients with HIV Infection Who Need Accommodations at Work, explains to doctors that patients with HIV infection may be able to get reasonable accommodations that help them to stay productive and employed, and provides them with instructions on how to support requests for accommodation with medical documentation. It also answers questions about the types of accommodations that may be available; the ADA's protections against employment discrimination based on having the condition or on the need for accommodation; the importance of disclosing the need for an accommodation before a problem occurs; and what to do when an employer raises safety concerns.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.