Monday, December 12, 2011

HIV Positive Detroit Man Faces Massive Discrimination By Employer: The James White Story

At least once a day, I hear a piece of news that makes my blood boil and sends me into a nearly apoplectic rage. Usually it has something to do with injustice, hate, ignorance, willful stupidity, fear, and violence against the vulnerable.

Rarely do I have a personal connection to the story. Today, I do, and the story is so horrific that I am committed to supporting justice. No one attacks my community and gets to walk away from their acts of violence.

I have a friend named James White of Detroit, MI. James lives with HIV, as do I, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States has found that James suffered overt and intentional acts of discrimination based on his HIV status by his former employer Great Expressions Dental Center. The EEOC attempted to mediate, after substantiating James' claims, and Great Expressions rejected the proposed settlement. The EEOC has now given James the right to sue, which he is doing, and it is my hope that Great Expressions is slapped with a judgment so harsh that James lives the rest of his life in comfort and that Great Expressions leaves such a devastating example to hatemongers that no one else in the United States will dare violate the equal opportunity employment rights guaranteed to HIV positive individuals by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Let me be clear, in an article at, James' lawyers say that this is the worst case of HIV related job discrimination that they have ever encountered. I agree.

After testing positive and disclosing his status to his immediate supervisor, and requesting that she keep it confidential, said supervisor informed the regional director. Soon afterwards, James was forced to deal with staff following him around and wiping down any surface he touched with Lysol, a ban against touching doorknobs, constant shifts in this work schedule at the last minute and then being written up for missing shifts if unable to make it, and finally facing hospitalization due to the stress and being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

In 2011, particularly in an urban environment, absolutely no one has any excuse for being unaware of the ways in which HIV is transmitted. Anyone that has ever had even rudimentary sexual health education knows that HIV is not spread by casual contact, including touch. And an employer has a moral and LEGAL obligation to protect its employees from discrimination, particularly vulnerable populations.

Great Expressions has willfully and actively violated it social, moral, and legal obligations to James White resulting in hurt, harm, and unwarranted damage. Ignorance, fear, prejudice, and overt and active discrimination based on his HIV status is the absolute root cause and it is not only unconscionable, it is unjust. I hope with all my heart that the federal court that hears James' case, finds in his favor, and Great Expressions and all those that participated are made to feel the full weight of the law.

There has been a petition started to let Great Expressions hear from the greater community about its actions. Greater Expressions has clinics in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia and Massachusetts, and this business needs to know that the business of hate and discrimination costs, and costs big.

Please consider signing this petition and supporting a man that has suffered from the ignorance and hate of others.

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