MALDEF Sues Burger King Corporation for HIV Discrimination

Restaurant Wrongfully Terminated Latino District Manager Based on Health Status

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA — Today, MALDEF filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Burger King Corporation for violating Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) by discriminating against a former district manager who was terminated after Burger King learned of his HIV status.

The lawsuit charges that Burger King — one of America’s leading fast food retailers — wrongfully terminated the manager in September of last year based on his medical condition. The ADA prohibits employment discrimination based on physical impairment. The suit was filed in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Throughout history, Latino workers have been subject to discrimination on many bases; HIV status is only the most recent basis for unlawful bias,” stated MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz. He added, “Society must eliminate all forms of irrational discrimination against workers nationwide.”

Before he was wrongfully terminated, the Plaintiff was a fully qualified employee in good standing at Burger King. During his seven-year career with the company, the Plaintiff earned several promotions and pay raises.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with HIV in or about April 2011, and notified Burger King of his HIV-positive status in or about June 2011. He notified Burger King that he was living with HIV because he thought the company should be aware of his health status although he was fully capable of performing all of his duties.

Once the Plaintiff disclosed his HIV status, he was subjected to unequal treatment, and ultimately, Burger King terminated him in September 2011, purportedly because of his performance.

“Burger King cannot rely on HIV bias to hire and fire its managers. Employers who terminate qualified individuals with HIV create even more liability for themselves because they deprive workers of both their jobs and their healthcare when workers are most in need,” stated Victor Viramontes, MALDEF National Senior Counsel.

“It takes courage to stand up to a large employer like Burger King Corporation,” said attorney Tim Schulte of Shelley & Schulte, P.C., who is serving as local counsel for MALDEF. “But our client is determined to enforce the law, both for his own sake and to help other employees. I admire him a great deal.”

Burger King’s decision to unfairly terminate the Plaintiff is a violation of clearly defined civil rights protections. MALDEF is committed to protecting those civil rights and seeking justice for all vulnerable workers terminated by their employers in violation of state and federal laws.