A 26-year-old from Michigan, James White began working at Great Expressions Dental Centers in August 2008. After he was diagnosed with HIV, he began going to a series of doctors appointments. Thereafter, the office manager inquired about the reason for all the appointments, White told her that he was HIV positive.
The company’s regional director, a doctor, said to White: “I hear you have AIDS” and told him that it was OK, since he didn’t work with patients. But thereafter other employees were told to disinfect everything that he touched, and followed him around with Lysol. He was banned from touching doorknobs.
It was seven months, White said, that “degraded me as a person.” Due to his health getting worse, he was hospitalized for a week and then fired by the company, over the telephone. White claims that his employer harassed and ultimately fired him for being HIV-positive.
White has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to his lawyer, Nicole Thompson. He does not want to leave his home, when he enters public places, he gets paranoid that people are following him and scrubbing everything he touches, then he “blacks out” and can’t remember anything.
After an investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed that the company violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. This law states that employers must make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities, and cannot discipline or discharge them because of their infirmity.
The company declined a settlement offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which requested more than $185,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
“It’s the most clear-cut case of HIV discrimination I have ever witnessed,” Joshua L. Moore, the president of Detroit Legal Services, told The Detroit News. “He was going through constant harassment.” White has hired Detroit Legal Services to bring a suit against Great Expressions for discrimination against him. While there has been large payouts in other HIV discrimination cases, White’s attorneys have not stated the requested amount of damages sought.
Richard Beckman, the CEO of Great Expressions Dental Centers, claims that no discrimination took place. He told The Detroit News that the company was “very sympathetic toward anybody who has HIV.”