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Gay couple from Florida settles HIV wrongful termination lawsuit

We have previously written that Florida law offers no protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Even though Florida has a large and vibrant GLBT community, legal protections for this group are still largely missing.

However, it is illegal to discriminate based on an employee's disability, including two diseases that are commonly associated with the gay community: HIV and AIDS. Two gay men recently settled a lawsuit alleging that they were fired from their jobs after their employer discovered they were HIV positive.

The men both worked for the same restaurant in Naples. While it is unclear if they first met at the restaurant, they did fall in love and were married in a civil ceremony in March of 2010.

Just one month later, their employer noticed that they had been sick and were making doctors' appointments. One of the men disclosed to his boss that he was HIV positive and she expressed concern about how the disease and treatment might affect the men's work.

Over the next two months, they received letters regarding their work performance and were eventually fired. The men filed EEOC complaints and sued the restaurant under the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under both statutes, AIDS is a protected disability.

Earlier this month, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount. The men say they will use the money to relocate to Nashville in order to start a new life. They also say they were interested in settling because it has been difficult to fight the case while also trying to fight the disease.

One of the men said: "My health got so bad before we settled that I almost died twice. They were making burial plans for me."

An EEOC spokeswoman in Miami says that it is also common for employers to seek settlement rather than choosing to fight the allegations. She says: It's best to settle rather than face a large settlement later. They realize 'We messed up and there's no reason to take this through litigation and face more later.'"

Source: NaplesNews.com, "Gay couple, Ridgway Bar & Grill settle HIV discrimination case out of court," Aisling Swift, Aug. 11, 2011

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