Manalapan Restaurant Forced Out Employee Because of HIV-Positive Family Member, Federal Agency Charged
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Callaro’s Prime Steak & Seafood, LLC, a restaurant in Manalapan, Fla., will pay $10,000 and furnish significant injunctive relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s suit charged Callaro’s with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when the company forced an employee to resign because she was associated with a HIV-positive family member and subsequently regarded her as disabled.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, after Callaro’s learned the employee’s family member was HIV-positive, the company insisted that she get tested for HIV. When the employee refused to take the HIV test, Callaro’s made adverse changes to her work schedule and working conditions. Eventually, the company reduced her scheduled hours so much that she was forced to resign, the EEOC said.
Employment discrimination against a person with a disability, or who is associated with such a person, violates the ADA. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Callaro’s Prime Steak & Seafood, LLC, Case No. 9:09-cv-81101-CIV-ZLOCH / ROSENBAUM) in U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary damages, the four-year consent decree resolving the case enjoins Callaro’s from engaging in conduct that discriminates on the basis of association with persons who have HIV or whom it regards as having HIV. The decree enjoins the company from retaliating against anyone who files a discrimination charge or opposes a practice unlawful under the ADA. It also requires Callaro’s to adopt and distribute an anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policy, train all of its employees on the policy annually, and report all harassment complaints to the EEOC for monitoring for the duration of the decree.
“On July 13, 2010, President Barack 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 or who are perceived to have HIV,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “This suit is part of that effort, and highlights the need for companies to take proactive and preventative steps to educate themselves and their employees about the ADA and its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of association with people with disabilities, or on the basis of perceived disabilities.”
Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the Miami District Office, said, “Unfortunately, biases against people who are HIV-positive – and their friends and family – still exist. Employers need to be reminded that they violate the law if they take adverse action against people who are HIV-positive or who are associated with an HIV-positive person. The EEOC will vigorously enforce the ADA to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS, or who are perceived to have HIV/AIDS, are not denied employment opportunities.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.