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Former Postal Worker Files Lawsuit Claiming He Was Fired for HIV-Positive Status

July 15, 2003

A former postal worker on Friday in federal court filed a lawsuit claiming that he was fired in January after his supervisors found out that he is HIV-positive, the Honolulu Advertiser reports. Honolulu attorney Clayton Ikei filed suit against U.S. Postmaster General John Potter on behalf of former Makiki Post Office worker Matthew Walker. Walker is seeking $300,000 in damages and reinstatement in his former position (Waite, Honolulu Advertiser, 7/12). Ikei said that he believes the suit is the first to be filed in Hawaii on behalf of an HIV-positive employee who claims to have been fired because of his HIV status (Associated Press, 7/12). The lawsuit cites an earlier informal racial discrimination complaint Walker filed against a female supervisor in August 2001, which was settled in September 2001. The lawsuit states that the same supervisor later notified Walker that she intended to have him fired after Walker sent a letter to a female customer whom he believed to be HIV-positive after he noticed that the woman had addressed an envelope to his treating physician. Walker fought the dismissal in a union grievance procedure, during which he disclosed his HIV status. The firing was "reduced to a suspension," which was waived, the Advertiser reports. The suit claims that after Walker's supervisors learned his HIV-positive status, he was subjected to closer scrutiny and received a 14-day suspension for leaving his cash and stamp stock drawers out on the counter at the end of his shift, according to the Advertiser. The lawsuit states that Walker was then notified on Jan. 15 that he would be fired effective Feb. 8. The U.S. Postal Service made no specific comment on the suit, saying in a statement that it "considers personnel-related matters to be private and confidential." Ikei said, "Despite federal laws, administrative regulations and even a U.S. Supreme Court decision, once the Postal Service learned of Mr. Walker's HIV-positive status, he became a target of discrimination" (Honolulu Advertiser, 7/12).

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