Home-Based Care Provider Fired Employee With HIV, Federal Agency Charges
NEW ORLEANS - Heart's Desire, LLC, a Monroe, La., home-based care provider, violated federal law when it discriminated against an employee because of disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed here on September 21, 2017.
The EEOC's suit alleges that Heart's Desire, LLC fired a caregiver after he disclosed that he has the human immunodeficiency virus, commonly known as HIV, and that medication he was taking to treat it had interfered with the results of a drug "screen." The results from that screen had preliminarily suggested that the employee might be using drugs illegally.
The EEOC asserts that even though the drug screen results were categorically refuted several hours later by a definitive laboratory drug test, Heart's Desire used those results as a pretext for terminating the caregiver. The EEOC's suit contends that Heart's Desire's reason for firing the employee - that he was using drugs illegally - was a pretext for its actual reason for firing him - that he had HIV. In so doing, Heart's Desire, the EEOC says, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee because of disability.
The EEOC filed its suit (Case 2:17-cv-09390) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-suit settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC, which has authority to bring the suit on behalf of the public, has asked the court to permanently enjoin Heart's Desire, from engaging in future discrimination. It has also asked the court to order the company to pay the employee both punitive and compensatory damages, lost wages and benefits.
"Employers cannot and must not discriminate based on an employee's disability," said Keith Hill, director for the EEOC's New Orleans Field Office. "Doing so frustrates equality, and it violates federal law."
Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the Houston District Office, cautioned, "Employers who disregard their employees' rights under the ADA will be held accountable by the EEOC."
The 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.