U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Nightclub Made Unlawful HIV Medical Inquiry, Then Fired Employee, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Diallo's of Houston, a Houston-area nightclub and party venue, will pay $139,366 and furnish other relief as a result of an EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit.
In its lawsuit, EEOC charged that Diallo's violated federal law when it forced employee Felicia M. Parks to provide medical documentation to prove she was not HIV-positive, and then fired her when she failed to provide such documentation. EEOC charged that Diallo's owner/manager approached Parks and informed her that she had "heard" from an unidentified third party that Parks was HIV-positive. The owner/manager twice demanded that Parks provide documentation to show she was not HIV-positive, based only on the owner/manager's assumption that Parks' HIV status was hazardous to the company's business. The owner/manager then fired Parks when she did not provide the required documentation.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division against Diallo's Entertainment, Inc. dba Diallo's of Houston (Civil Action No. 4:16-cv-02909) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On Dec. 29, 2016, Judge David Hittner entered default judgment against Diallo's. EEOC was granted judgment following its presentation of evidence in court, and obtained an award for the affected employee of $139,366. The court awarded all the relief sought by EEOC, including $89,366 in back pay and other pecuniary losses to Parks, plus compensatory damages for her mental pain and suffering and punitive damages totaling an additional $50,000. The court also granted EEOC's requested injunctive relief prohibiting Diallo's from engaging in future disability discrimination, and ordered that the nightclub institute policies, practices and programs to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified persons with disabilities. The court also awarded EEOC its court costs.
"It is a violation of federal law to make a disability-related inquiry unrelated to the employee's job requirements or to any legitimate business necessity," explained EEOC's regional attorney in Houston, Rudy Sustaita. "EEOC will keep fighting such invasive and unfair probing by employers."
The attorney in charge of the case, EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Connie Wilhite Gatlin, added, "Employers may no longer rely on outdated and meritless assumptions about HIV to discriminate against employees. A demand for disability-related information without any legitimate reason is simply illegal."
EEOC's Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith St. in Houston.
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.