A Florida taxi driver has filed an employment discrimination suit against his former employer, claiming that he lost his job because of his HIV status. The victim had worked for the company, Mears Transportation, for about two years when he was fired in 2013. The driver was diagnosed with the disease shortly after he was hired in 2011. Now, he says that his employee rights were violated, even though he always performed his job to the satisfaction of his supervisors.
Like many workers struggling with a major illness, the man took medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act several times during the course of his employment. This is a federally protected right; no one can be fired or otherwise abused because they need to take unpaid time off to seek medical care for themselves or a close relative. Attorneys say that the man’s HIV status, his use of the leave and other factors contributed to the man losing his job. The man was accused of “ugly things” by his supervisor and other employees — he was fired shortly thereafter, with only minimal investigation into the matter.
The man is therefore seeking financial damages from the company, alleging that the firm violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the FMLA leave policy. Further, the company is accused of violating the Florida Civil Rights Act and engaging in retaliation against the worker. The company has not commented on the suit, but representatives have said that Mears Transportation does not discriminate against workers.
The lawsuit in this case was allowed to proceed because of an initial ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That government group decided that the man had the right to sue the company for the potential violations because a mandatory 180-day waiting period had passed. Now, the suit is being considered by a U.S. District Court.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Mears Transportation driver files HIV discrimination lawsuit” Paul Brinkmann, Jun. 20, 2014