World-Famous Ivy Restaurant Sued For HIV Discrimination
3/30/2012 10:00:00 AM
By Alex Garner
A lawsuit alleging HIV discrimination was filed against the world-famous Ivy restaurant in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 29. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed the suit claiming The Ivy violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and discriminated against former busboy Reymudo Martinez.
Martinez, who worked for The Ivy for five months, claims he was fired after testing HIV-positive and asking for accommodation due to the adverse side effects of his new antiretroviral medications. He claims to have provided management with a note from his doctor at the Jeffrey Goodman Clinic asking the restaurant to “please facilitate patient request on work schedule change.”
I spoke by phone with Ivy owner Richard Irving who said: “We didn’t know he was sick.” He added, “We have a long history of helping people who are sick.”
I asked Irving about the allegation in the lawsuit that Martinez presented the restaurant with a doctor’s note. Irving responded: “He didn’t provide a note when he was employed.”
Irving told the L.A. Weekly that he was fired for being a bad worker.
But the MALDEF lawsuit (PDF) alleges that his firing was the first negative feedback Martinez received. “Latino workers deserve protection, like anyone else, from discrimination based on bias against health condition or based on any other irrational bias," MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz said in a statement.
The MALDEF lawsuit raises a question about whether there might be a silent trend toward HIV discrimination, considering the two high-profile HIV discrimination cases filed last December.
The first case involved the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania. They were sued for denying entrance to an HIV-positive student. The school went on record saying: “In order to protect our children in this unique environment, we cannot accommodate the needs of students with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.” The response from the community was a call for a national boycott of Hershey products. That boycott is still going on.
The other discrimination case involved an HIV-positive employee of a Detroit dental center. The employee claimed on-the-job discrimination, including being followed around by other employees who sprayed Lysol on surfaces he had touched.
“The Ivy cannot target employees with HIV for discrimination. Individuals in these vulnerable situations are in particular need of their jobs, and any employer choosing to discriminate faces the possibility of a civil suit,” stated Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel.
The Ivy is a Los Angeles institution and a hangout for celebrities and Hollywood moguls. Many in the Latino and HIV communities are already calling for protests against the restaurant. Any political action against the restaurant could present a dilemma for its patrons, many of who are members of the LGBT community or committed to social justice. We’ll keep you posted as more news develops.
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