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Lost job due to HIV
Sep 11, 1998

I was terminated from my employment 3 weeks after informing my Regional Manager I was HIV+. I know I can file a claim with the EEOC for discrimination (and I am) but, do I stand a chance at a lawsuit against the company ? If my claims are true and supported with documentation, can I sue this company and stand a chance at a large settlement for the stress they have caused me ?

Response from Ms. Breuer

Filing a claim with the EEOC is a good first step, and required before you can bring a lawsuit claiming discrimination on the basis of disability. In order to prevail on such a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a claimant must prove:

1: that he has a disability covered by the ADA--that is, which substantially limits a major life activity 2: that s/he was discriminated against and 3: that the discrimination was because of the disability

These cases are, in general, difficult to prove. Poor or incompetent management does not amount to discrimination, if everyone in the workplace gets treated the same way. Even if an employee thinks an employer knows about his or her HIV-status, the employee has to be able to prove that the employer knew and took some negative job action as the result of that information.

Also, finding a lawyer who will represent you, if you canÉt afford to pay a retainer may be difficult. Most employment discrimination cases are brought by lawyers paid through contingency fees arrangements--which means the lawyer gets a percentage of any settlement or court awarded damages. Obviously, in order to take this risk, a contingency fee lawyer must think you have a strong case. An HIV legal services provider may be able to help you, or assist you in finding an attorney who will take the case pro bono--for no cost--but this depends on where you live, and how well organized the HIV legal community is in your area.

Under the law you can receive damages for stress that you have suffered as the result of discrimination; any settlement discussions would probably be based on what damages you could receive at court.

I would suggest you speak with an employment attorney who can evaluate your case more specifically.

Mary Sylla, HALSA


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