"It is starkly unfair as well as unlawful to force an employee to prove that the employee does not have an ailment because it heard the employee might have it."
Diallo's, a Houston-area nightclub and party venue, violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it forced an employee to provide medical documentation to prove that she was not HIV-positive, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. When the employee failed to provide the documentation, she was unlawfully fired, EEOC said.
The lawsuit charges that Diallo's owner/manager approached the employee and informed her that the owner/manager had heard from an unidentified third party that the employee was HIV-positive, which the owner/manager simply surmised to be hazardous to the company's business. The owner/manager then demanded, on two separate occasions, that the employee provide documentation to show that she was not, in fact, HIV-positive, and informed the employee that if she could not provide such documentation, she would be terminated. The employee did not provide such documentation and was fired.
EEOC charges that Diallo's violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by making an impermissible disability-related inquiry that was unrelated to the employee's job requirements or any business necessity, and by firing her because of her disability when she failed to provide medical documentation. EEOC filed suit against Diallo's Entertainment, Inc. dba Diallo's of Houston (Civil Action No. 4:16-cv-02909) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks an injunction, back pay with pre-judgment interest, reinstatement (or, in the alternative, front pay), compensatory damages and punitive damages, in amounts to be determined at trial.
"It is starkly unfair as well as unlawful to force an employee to prove that the employee does not have an ailment because it heard the employee might have it," said Rayford O. Irvin, district director of EEOC's Houston District Office. "Federal law makes clear the parameters under which an employer may use medical exams, and Diallo's clearly violated them."
Jim Sacher, EEOC's regional attorney in Houston, explained, "An employer cannot make business decisions affecting an employee who it heard had a disability such as HIV based on generalized assumptions and unsupported conclusions about the effects of the possible disability on the workplace. Knee-jerk reactions to such disabilities - especially if the supposed condition is based on hearsay - are not only outdated, they are illegal."
EEOC's Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Leland Federal Building at 1919 Smith St. in Houston.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC and the laws it enforces is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov
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