Longview Fast Food Restaurant Refused to Hire HIV-Positive Applicant Despite His Qualifications, Federal Agency Charges
TYLER, Texas - A corporation that owns and operates several Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits franchise restaurants violated federal law when it discriminated against a job applicant because he was HIV-positive, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC charged in its suit against Famous Chicken of Shreveport, L.L.C. that the general manager of a Longview, Texas Popeye's restaurant refused to hire Noah Crawford for a position, despite his qualifications and experience, upon learning that 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. In response to the question on the application, "reason for leaving" his most recent job, Crawford wrote, "medical." After submitting the application, Crawford was interviewed by the general manager and asked to disclose the "medical" condition referenced. When Crawford stated that he has HIV, he was immediately informed that he could not work for Popeye's given his condition.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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 EEOC filed suit, Case No.6:13-CV-644 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent and correct disability discrimination. The suit also seeks lost wages and compensatory damages for Crawford and punitive damages against Famous Chicken of Shreveport, L.L.C.
"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," said EEOC trial attorney Joel Clark. "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."
Public resources such as "How to Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Restaurants and Other Food Service Employers," published by the EEOC for public reference, clarify that unfounded fears about HIV, or others' reactions, does not justify denying hire to a qualified applicant.
Famous Chicken of Shreveport also owns and operates chicken franchise restaurants in Laredo, El Paso and Killeen, Texas, and Louisiana.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.