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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dentist Office Bans HIV+ Employee from Touching Doorknobs, Sprays Him with Lysol

great expressions hiv discrimination, james white hiv discrimination, dentist lysol doorknobs hiv, dentist bans hiv from doorknobsShortly after testing positive for HIV, James White informed his Great Expressions Dental Clinic office manager of his status, but asked that she keep his health private. Imagine White’s surprise days later when he was summoned by the company’s regional director and berated for “having AIDS.”
White was informed that there would be no change to his responsibilities as he didn’t work directly with dental patients, and posed zero risk of infecting anyone. But things pretty much went straight to hell from there.
He says he was prohibited from touching doorknobs in the office. Staff members followed him around with Lysol, spraying and wiping down the surfaces he touched. He was subjected to unexpected changes in his schedule—called and told to come in later than scheduled, or to leave earlier than expected. When he complied with the scheduling offers, he was written up for unexcused absences.
After months of this, he said he was overwhelmed.

His health took a turn for the worse, and he was hospitalized for a week. During that time, the clinic decided to fire him. They called him the day before he was to return to work and informed him that he was fired for excessive unexcused absences.

“I felt like my character was destroyed,” he says. “I went from wanting to be an activist—someone who spoke to groups about HIV—to someone who didn’t want to leave my room for six months.”
His lawyer Nicole Thompson says that “it’s very clear [White] has been traumatized by this.”

Thompson notes he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and White himself says he continues to see mental health professionals weekly to address his concerns. He still has trouble going into public places. For example, White says he “blacks out” when he goes to the grocery store and doesn’t remember being there. Right before the blackouts, White says, he feels like people are following him around and sanitizing everything he touches or that people are talking about him.
White, having a relatively clearcut legal case on his hands, has sued the heck out of his former employer. The Detroit area Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is overseeing the case, and suggested that Great Expressions settle out of court with White for a figure around $185,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. So far, the dental clinic has refused so it looks like the case will be settled in court, where a judge will have the opportunity to hit the discriminatory office with even heftier damages.

Our condolences go out to White. Nobody should have to deal with this nonsense as they are delicately navigating life-altering changes to their health. We applaud you for your bravery. You’re setting a fantastic example for all those who have faced workplace discrimination due to a medical condition. You go boy.

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