We're Suing a Louisiana Sheriff's Parish Over HIV Discrimination

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October 24, 2017
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Photo by: Sebastian Pichler

Today, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on behalf of William “Liam” Pierce, after the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s office rescinded a job offer as a Sheriff’s Deputy because he is a person living with HIV.

“Mr. Pierce has dedicated his life to helping people in need and he has done it admirably. The Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office made a job offer to him because he was experienced and well-suited for the job, but then took it back because he is living with HIV,” said Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal.

“Hiring should be based on a candidate’s qualifications to do the job, not unfounded fears about HIV. This is illegal discrimination plain and simple.”

In 2012, Liam Pierce, a life-long public servant in health and public safety, applied for a position as a sheriff’s deputy with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, a job for which he was and is fully qualified. Shortly after his in-person interview, a captain informed him that he would be hired.

However, after Pierce completed a medical examination that noted his HIV status, the job offer was rescinded. Pierce filed a charge of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) a few months later.

In 2016, after investigating Pierce’s claim, the EEOC issued a Determination of Probable Cause stating that the evidence supported Mr. Pierce’s claim against the Iberia Parish Sheriff.

Lambda Legal has a long history of fighting for LGBT employees and employees living with HIV who face discrimination at work, including several recent cases on behalf of clients forced from their jobs or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Liam Pierce has devoted his life to serving those in urgent need or whose safety is at risk. He has worked as a paramedic, volunteer firefighter, and police officer, among other service positions as a first-responder.

In 2005, Mr. Pierce left his life and job in Ohio to help with relief efforts in Louisiana in response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. He has been a resident of Louisiana ever since and continued his career in public safety.

“When I was offered the job. I was so excited because I would be helping people and that is what I love to do,” said Pierce. “A job in service to the community has been at the center of my life for as long as I can remember, so when the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office took the job offer back, I was just devastated. It was a punch to the gut. I couldn’t believe it.

"It’s just not right that good, hardworking people are turned away from jobs they are qualified to do because of sheer ignorance. My hope is that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else. The Iberia Parish Sheriff and his office need to learn about HIV and understand that it does not disqualify me from doing this job or any other.”

The case is Pierce v. Ackal. Handling the case for Lambda Legal are: Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., and Scott A. Schoettes, joined by co-counsel J. Dalton Courson and Annie G. McBride of Stone Pigman.

Read the complaint.

More information about Lambda Legal’s Out at Work campaign.