July 29, 2004
"Nodak Enterprises has just admitted to firing our client because he has HIV, and we're committed to holding them accountable," said Greg Nevins, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. "There's nowhere for them to go; our client was fired out of fear and bigotry -- not sound science -- and that is against the law."
Lambda Legal represents Joey Saavedra, 45, a skilled auto glass installer who has worked in the industry for nearly 27 years. During an interview for a job with Nodak Enterprises for a position installing auto glass, Saavedra disclosed his HIV status to the company's district manager. After he was hired, Saavedra also told his direct supervisor. Three months later, after news of his HIV status made its way up to the company's leadership, Saavedra was fired -- even though he did his job well and his direct supervisor wanted to keep him on staff.
"Joey presents no risk to other employees or customers," said Jon Givner, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's AIDS Project. "Even with medical advances that allow many people to live longer and healthier lives, the social stigma and baseless fears about HIV still exist."
In an unusual move, Nodak Enterprises gave Saavedra a termination notice on the day of the firing, documenting the company's own illegal actions which said, "HIV status is a direct threat to the safety of others ... it is in the best interest of this Company to terminate employee at this time." In the court papers made public today, the company admits that Saavedra "performed his job duties in a satisfactory manner" and that the termination notice "speaks for itself."
Lambda Legal's lawsuit, filed in federal court, is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
Nodak Enterprises operates 42 retail stores under the names Auto Glass Service and Service Auto Glass in seven southern states. The company is headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
As an auto glass installer, Saavedra traveled to customers' cars and repaired or replaced, primarily, windshields. As is customary in this field, Saavedra usually performed his duties alone.
C. Michael Bozeman, co-counsel, joins Lambda Legal's attorneys on this case.
Earlier this year, Lambda Legal won the largest settlement of its kind against Cirque du Soleil when the company agreed to pay $600,000 to gymnast Matthew Cusick after they unlawfully fired him because he has HIV.