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Wrongful termination of employee with HIV leads to payout

Most New Yorkers can imagine that being diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus is sobering and traumatic. Now imagine what workers experience when employers discriminate against them because of their medical condition. Fortunately, employment law offers some protection from discrimination.

A recent decision by a Manhattan federal court jury was good news for a 50-year-old New York man. According to news reports, the jury awarded more than $500,000 in both punitive and compensatory damages in connection with the man's wrongful termination lawsuit filed against The Manhattan Club, a midtown boutique hotel. According to the former employee, his employer terminated him because of his medical condition.

The man was employed as an assistant office manager and had a solid employment record with the company until he was diagnosed with HIV in 2008 and asked his employer to shift him from nights to days because of his condition. The employee explained that his illness required him to take a prescription drug that caused drowsiness. His supervisor denied his request and suggested that he quit.

The man filed a disability discrimination complaint after management said he would be put back on night shift. After his complaint, the man received harsh job evaluations and complaints and was eventually dismissed in 2011.

The plaintiff's attorney stated that the jury's decision is completely fair, adding that the law is intended to protect all workers who complain about employment discrimination.

Although employers and company owners have control of their business operations and can expect specific performance from their workers, they must still comply with all rules and regulations set forth in employment law. Employers have the power to terminate an employee for cause, but dismissal should be lawful and not be driven by illegal motives such as discrimination. Employers acting otherwise can be held legally responsible.

Source: EDGE, "Man with HIV gets $500G for Wrongful Termination by Manhattan Hotel," Winnie McCroy, Mar. 17, 2014

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