Lambda Legal Settles Federal Lawsuit Against Owner of Las Vegas Subway Restaurants Who Fired Manager Because He Has HIV

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"Employers must learn what the CDC already knows: 25 years of scientific study confirm there is no known risk of HIV transmission to customers or anyone else through the normal course of business at a restaurant."
December 20, 2006

(Las Vegas, December 20, 2006) — Lambda Legal announces today that it has settled a lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Las Vegas division, on behalf of a man who was fired by a Subway restaurant owner because he has HIV.

“The law is very clear that employers can’t fire people simply because they have HIV,” said Jen Sinton, HIV Project Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “Sound science shows if someone with HIV is able to work, there is no reason why they can’t work in the food service industry. Improving science literacy around HIV transmission is crucial to the struggle to end AIDS.”

The settlement between Robert Hickman and Donna Curry Investments is fully executed. Among other things included in the settlement, the company agrees that its written policies will explicitly state that it does not discriminate against any qualified individuals with HIV. Additionally, all managers and employees in supervisory roles will be trained on how HIV is transmitted, thereby putting to rest any concern about HIV transmission in the food service industry, and they will be instructed regarding the legal obligation not to discriminate against existing or potential employees based on HIV or AIDS. According to the Nevada State Health Division, although Nevada has the nation’s 35th largest population, it ranks 14th in the nation for the rate of adolescents and adults living with AIDS.

Lambda Legal represents Hickman, who was hired by Donna Curry Investments as a store manager and began work at Subway restaurants owned by the company in Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada on November 3, 2004. After three months on the job, Hickman became eligible for employer-sponsored health insurance. Because the health insurance application requested information about his HIV status, Hickman asked his employer if he would be denied insurance because he has HIV. The owner of the company fired Hickman the following day, February 4, 2005, because she believed he posed a danger to customers.

“I’m gratified that my former employer has taken to heart that discrimination against people with HIV is wrong and has agreed to have new policies and training,” Mr. Hickman said. “Employers must learn what the CDC already knows: 25 years of scientific study confirm there is no known risk of HIV transmission to customers or anyone else through the normal course of business at a restaurant.”

Hickman v. Donna Curry Investments, LLC et al. (doing business as Subway) is part of Lambda Legal’s Blow The Whistle campaign to end discrimination against LGBT people and those with HIV in the workplace. At Lambda Legal’s Blow the Whistle campaign website, www.lambdalegal.org/btw, visitors can learn how to share their own stories of workplace discrimination or become an ally to others in the Blow the Whistle campaign. Employers, unions, coworkers, customers and clients can all serve as important allies for fairness in the workplace. Motivated by a commitment to equal treatment for all employees, allies can help ensure that people like Robert Hickman are treated fairly at work.

Jen Sinton, Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal’s HIV Project is lead attorney on the case and she is assisted by Bebe J. Anderson, Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director. Caren Jenkins of Jenkins Law Office PC in Reno, Nevada and Sonja Weissman, Geoffrey Kertesz, and Juliet Starett of Reed Smith LLP in Oakland, California, are co-counsel on the case.


Contact—Mark Roy: 212-809-8585 ext. 267

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.


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