Tyler, Texas (KMSS) — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Famous Chicken of Shreveport in Longview, Texas, for allegedly declining to hire an applicant who was HIV-positive.
The suit was filed in Tyler, Friday, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The suit is claiming the general manager of Popeye's in Longview, who is owned by Famous Chicken of Shreveport, refused to hire a man for a position at the restaurant after learning he was HIV-positive.
According to the EEOC's suit, in October 2011, Crawford, who had years of prior experience working for a fast food restaurant, including experience working as a fast food restaurant general manager, submitted an application for a position with Popeye's.
The lawsuit states, the man, whom Popeye's reportedly refused to hire, had written on his application his reason for leaving his last job was due to medical reasons. The man told the EEOC, when he was interviewed by the general manager, he was asked to reveal what his medical condition was which made him leave his prior job. The man says when he told the general manager he was HIV-positive, he was immediately informed he could not work for Popeye's with that condition.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship. According to the Food and Drug Administration's Food Code, HIV is not listed as a disease transmissible through the food supply.
The suit is also seeking lost wages and compensatory damages for Crawford and punitive damages against Famous Chicken of Shreveport, L.L.C.
Joel Clark, the attorney for the plaintiff, said, "On July 13, 2010, President Obama charged federal agencies to implement the National HIV/AIDS strategy, one goal of which is to better serve people living with HIV - including by preventing barriers to employment of people with HIV. Pursuing this case is part of the EEOC's overall strategic effort to encourage employers to prevent discrimination by making hiring decisions that are well-informed, rather than snap judgments that are based on myths, fears and stereotypes about people with HIV."
Janet Elizondo, district director of EEOC's Dallas District Office, added, "People who are HIV-positive are valued members of society and should be given the same opportunity as others to become gainfully employed based on their education, skills and qualifications."
KMSS has spoken with the plaintiff, but for his privacy, his name will not be released. KMSS has also contacted the law firm representing Famous Chicken of Shreveport, and the attorney was out of the office. We are expecting a call from him on Monday.
KMSS will continue to update this story as the judicial process takes its course.