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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, filed a lawsuit against Maverik Inc., according to a report by Star Valley Independent.
Information regarding the commission's lawsuit against the convenience store chain was posted Oct. 4 on the EEOC Denver Field Office's Web site. The complaint states Salt Lake City, Utah-based Maverik "unlawfully discriminated against Randy Ramos, who is HIV positive, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
A Maverik executive, however, disputes the commission's claim.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Ramos was "a good employee who had worked as a bakery clerk in Maverik's Afton location since 2005." In 2008, Maverik allegedly terminated Ramos "just 13 days after Ramos' HIV status was disclosed in a letter from the Wyoming Worker's Safety and Compensation Division," the filing stated.
"HIV is very much a disability under the ADA," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill, whose jurisdiction includes Wyoming. "One would expect that employers in this day and age would be sensitive to that and agree to work with an HIV positive employee, not fire him."
The EEOC also alleges that Maverik failed to make reasonable accommodations for Ramos.
Maverik spokesperson Brad Call said the EEOC is "wrong" in its assumptions of the circumstances leading up to Ramos being fired. "Maverik is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate," Call said. "We are in compliance with the law."
According to Call, the decision to fire Ramos had nothing to do with the former Maverik employees' HIV status. The people who made the decision regarding terminating Ramos' employment with the company "were not even aware he was HIV positive," Call said.
That being the case, Call noted "it is impossible that the decision about Ramos' was based on his status as being HIV positive."
According to information provided by the EEOC, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming "after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle¬ment."
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The EEOC is also seeking "injunctive relief prohibiting further discrimination by the employer and mandating corrective action.