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Banking Giant JPMorgan Chase Sued Over Alleged HIV Discrimination

January 7, 2015

A former corporate vice president of JPMorgan Chase is suing the banking giant, alleging the corporation violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by ignoring a doctor's order related to the man's HIV care.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed the suit on Jan. 2, 2015, in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles. It was filed on behalf of Jesus Leon, the bank's former vice president of community development banking in Los Angeles. The suit alleges the bank violated California law as well as the ADA.

The lawsuit states that Leon began working with Chase in June of 2010 as vice president of global philanthropy, and in January of 2012 accepted a position in Los Angeles. It explains that he was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, and maintains that -- prior to July 2012 when the alleged discrimination began -- Chase was aware of his HIV-positive status.

Federal law has determined that being HIV positive qualifies under the ADA. As such, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for an employee living with HIV.

In April 2012, Leon says, he submitted documentation from his doctor explaining that he needed a medical leave. Chase approved that leave and Leon returned to his post in July 2012.

According to the case, his physician also wrote that that Leon, because of his medical condition, should not work more than 40 hours per week. Leon states he requested that the company provide a reasonable accommodation on this basis, but alleges in his lawsuit that the company did not honor the request to limit his work hours to 40 hours per week. On July 19, 2014, Leon claims that as a result of working more than 40 hours, his medical condition worsened, requiring his being transported from his work by an ambulance.

The next day, Leon says in his lawsuit, he filed a formal complaint with Chase Human Resources officials regarding the company's alleged failure to honor his medically necessary reasonable accommodation.

"A request for accommodation opens a discussion between the employer and the employee," Matthew J. Barragan, staff attorney at MALDEF, said in a press release. "Employers need to earnestly analyze the job at hand and assess whether an employee with a disability is able to perform the essential function of that job with a reasonable accommodation. People with disabilities cannot be excluded from jobs due to ill-conceived assumptions about their abilities."

Less than a month later, the lawsuit alleges, Leon was "constructively discharged and forced to resign his position from Chase because Defendants failed to accommodate his condition and engage in an interactive process to determine how to accommodate his condition."

"For a large and sophisticated corporate entity like Chase to treat an employee with a serious disability so cavalierly is simply inexcusable in this day and age," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, in a press release. "We should expect our largest employers to act with greater sensitivity to moral and legal obligation."

JPMorgan Chase has not made any comment on the lawsuit.

Todd A. Heywood is a freelance writer based in Lansing, Michigan. He specializes in writing about HIV policy issues in the U.S. Find him on Facebook and @ToddHeywood on Twitter.

Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Anonyous (New york) Wed., May. 20, 2015 at 6:41 pm UTC
Chase encourages and supports managers to discriminate and wrongfully accused employees 40 years and older of substandard performance In Order to terminate them. HR is of no help as they support managers to do their dirty work. After termination when prospective employers call for reference they give a bad one but in a subtle manner. This needs to be addressed.
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Comment by: vert grimble (calgary, ab) Thu., Jan. 15, 2015 at 3:29 pm UTC
I can relate and feel for this man. I was fired 15 years ago by a major oil company 2 months after being diagnosed with full blown AIDS. I was terrified of disclosing for fear of being terminated - the workplace was AIDS and homo phobic (even though I'm straight I knew I would be assumed gay).

I nearly suicided at the termination. Eventually I was re-instated on disability but it was made clear to me that I would never be welcome in the workplace. 15 years later I am still suffering from severe PTSD.

I hope Mr Leon seeks intensive psychological/spiritual counselling. He has been raped by a soulless/psychopathic corporation ... a major life trauma. And I hope he wins his legal battle. I applaud his courage.
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Comment by: Steven (Vegas ) Sat., Jan. 10, 2015 at 8:57 am UTC
I hate chase now. I no longer want to bank there.
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Comment by: Seer Clearly (Denver, CO) Wed., Jan. 7, 2015 at 2:01 pm UTC
This is a tough position for an employer to be in. As the article says, there needs to be a discussion about the employee's ability to to the job. Some jobs cannot be done by some employees, especially after a change in their health. However what happened here is not a reasonable accommodation of any kind. As a small employer, I often wrestle with the consequences of physical or psychological issues that employees have, and am also restrained in how I can talk to them about it because of the personal/business privacy barriers. However, again, in this case Chase's behavior is inexcusable.
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