Highly Skilled Georgia Worker Unlawfully Fired Because He Has HIV--Lambda Legal Files Federal Lawsuit
(Atlanta, Georgia, May 20, 2004) - Armed with a favorable Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision, Lambda Legal announced that it is filing a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a 45 year-old Georgia man after he was unlawfully fired from his job because he has HIV.
Lambda Legal represents Joey Saavedra, a skilled auto glass installer who has worked in the industry for nearly 27 years. During an interview for a job with Nodak Enterprises for a position installing auto glass, Saavedra disclosed his HIV status to the company’s district manager. After he was hired, Saavedra also told his direct supervisor. Three months later, after news of his HIV status made its way up to the company’s leadership, Saavedra was fired--even though he did his job well and his direct supervisor wanted to keep him on staff.
"Joey Saavedra was fired out of fear and bigotry -- not sound science -- and that is against the law," said Greg Nevins, Senior Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. "Joey presents no risk to other employees or customers. Even with medical advances that allow many people to live longer, healthier lives, the social stigma and baseless fears about HIV still exist."
In an unusual move, Nodak Enterprises gave Saavedra a termination notice on the day of the firing documenting their own illegal actions which said, "HIV status is a direct threat to the safety of others...it is in the best interest of this Company to terminate employee at this time."
Lambda Legal’s lawsuit, filed in federal court today, is based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities if they pose no real risk to themselves or others.
Nodak Enterprises operates 42 retail stores under the names Auto Glass Service and Service Auto Glass in seven southern states. The company is headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
As an auto glass installer, Saavedra traveled to customers’ cars and repaired or replaced, primarily, windshields. As is customary in this field, Saavedra performed his duties alone.
"Occasionally, as might be expected, minor nicks and cuts occur, but none of those scenarios given his job description would transmit HIV," said Jon Givner, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal’s AIDS Project. "None of Joey’s other employers, either before or after Nodak, even batted an eye when they learned he was HIV positive. Nodak’s firing of Joey was out of line with industry practice, accepted science, and common sense."
C. Michael Bozeman, co-counsel, joins Lambda Legal’s attorneys on this case.
Lambda Legal recently won the largest settlement of its kind against Cirque du Soleil when the company agreed to pay $600,000 to gymnast Matthew Cusick after they unlawfully fired him because he has HIV.