Restaurant worker unceremoniously fired because of his ‘unacceptable’ HIV-positive status, lawsuit claims

Patrick Kelleher December 12, 2020
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Waiter serves people food in a restaurant

The man said he was fired for having HIV. (Envato Elements)

A restaurant worker has claimed that he was fired from his job by a manager who claimed his HIV status would impact on the company’s profits.

Nicholas Watson was dismissed from his job at Hopkins Icehouse Holdings LLC in Texarkana, Texas, in March 2019, according to a federal lawsuit filed in October.

In the lawsuit, Watson said a manager informed him he was being dismissed because of his HIV status, the Texarkana Gazette reports.

Watson was working at the Hopkins Icehouse on Gibson Lane in Texarkana, Texas – which now operates under a different name – in 2019 when he was allegedly told he could not continue in his role because he had HIV.

In his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Watson said the restaurant’s general manager referred to his HIV status and said: “We’re worried it’s going to affect business, like revenue.”

In his lawsuit, Watson said he faced no challenges in carrying out his duties at work and that his HIV status did not limit him in the workplace.

Man fired for having HIV is seeking damages from the restaurant.

The lawsuit claimed that the restaurant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired him, and had dismissed him with “malice or reckless indifference” to his rights, which are protected under federal law.

Watson is asking for back pay, front pay, loss of fringe benefits, bonuses and other costs in his lawsuit. He is also requesting punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.

The lawsuit was filed by Lennie Bollinger, a lawyer based in McKinney, Texas, and the case has been assigned to US District Judge Robert Schroeder III.

It has been almost 40 years since the HIV epidemic began, yet stigma and discrimination surrounding the infection persist.

Today, people with HIV can take antiretroviral drugs, which reduces the viral load in the bloodstream to an undetectable level – meaning people can live long, healthy and happy lives with HIV.

While huge strides have been made, research suggests that many people still hold tired, dated views about HIV.

A survey conducted by GLAAD and pharma giant Gilead released this year found that more than half of Americans think they have to “careful” around people with HIV.

Just 60 per cent of respondents were aware that HIV can be treated, while just one in three agreed that people “should not have to tell others they are living with HIV”.

Related topics: HIV, Nicholas Watson, texarkana, Texas

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