A New York City man who claims he was abruptly fired from his finance job at a car dealership after his employer learned he is HIV-positive has recruited celebrity support after the company denied all allegations in his wrongful termination lawsuit.
Jeffrey Villacampa, 43, hosted a press conference in New York on Wednesday with Aviva Drescher, reality television star from "The Real Housewives of New York City," and Corey Johnson, candidate for New York City Council.
"I'm saddened but not shocked by their continued ignorance," Villacampa said.
He filed a lawsuit in April against Bayside Volkswagen in Queens with the Supreme Court of the State of New York County, suing for $4 million.
Villacampa, who lives in Manhattan, alleges sexual orientation discrimination by his former employer, individual liability for sexual orientation discrimination by three former colleagues, and retaliation under the New York City Human Rights Law by the dealership and his general manager.
Bayside Volkswagen filed a response on May 8 with the court, denying all allegations in the lawsuit. A pre-trial conference with all parties and a judge will take place on July 1.
The law firm representing the defendants released a statement to ABC News, stating the defendants "are deeply grieved by Jeffrey Villacampa's decision to file a wrongful lawsuit against them and take this meritless case into the public arena as a smear campaign."
"While Mr. Villacampa would like the public to believe that the termination of his employment from Bayside Volkswagen was motivated by discriminatory animus based on his sexual orientation, his allegations could not be further from the truth," the defendants' statement read. "Evidence that will be presented during the course of this litigation will clearly establish that Bayside Volkswagen had legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for terminating Mr. Villacampa's employment. Thus, Defendants are extremely confident that they will be able to prove that Mr. Villacampa's claims are meritless, and look forward to being vindicated after their day in court."
Villacampa, who said he has 20 years of experience working in the auto industry, began working at Bayside Volkswagen around November 2012. As a finance manager, his compensation was around $10,000 per month.
Since he learned he had the virus about five years ago, Villacampa said he previously had two employers who knew he was HIV-positive and had "no issue" with that fact.
The number of cases alleging discrimination against workers who are HIV-positive has generally fallen in the past 25 years. According to the EEOC, there were 200 charges alleging discrimination on the basis of disability due to HIV in fiscal year 2012, or .08 of all of the disability discrimination charges filed with the EEOC under the Americans with Disabilities Act that year. In 1997, there were 323 cases, or 1.8 percent of all cases the EEOC tracked.
A spokeswoman for the EEOC said the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 greatly simplified the definition of "disability" and set forth a series of non-exclusive impairments that would, in almost all cases, qualify an individual as having a covered disability. HIV infection is included as one of these impairments.
"I'm fine. I'm undetectable," Villacampa previously told ABC News. "I'm very healthy. I have no visible marks or anything like that."
It wasn't until an encounter in February that Villacampa said he felt discrimination both because of his sexual orientation and because he is HIV-positive.
Villacampa claims he was subject to "an outrageously offensive conversation" between top managers at the dealership that included gay slurs, the lawsuit said. Two of the defendants named in the suit are sales manager Daniel Yankov and general sales manager Angelo Alexiadis.
Villacampa told ABC News that his colleagues knew he was gay.
On Feb. 11, Villacampa complained to Suzanne Cochrane, the general manager at the dealership, also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, "about the extremely offensive and discriminatory language," according to the filing.
"[Cochrane] took no action and said that "faggot" is not offensive," the lawsuit said, aware that he was gay.
Villacampa said it wasn't until his colleagues learned he was HIV-positive that he was later fired.
Around March 12, Alexiadis informed Villacampa that Alexiadis' brother is gay and was HIV-positive. Alexiadis also said his brother "was no longer allowed in his home or near his children due to his HIV+ status," the lawsuit said.
Villacampa told Alexiadis that people with HIV "are not dangerous and asked Alexiadis to reconsider his decision," the lawsuit said.
"I was just imploring him, 'Please reconsider what you are doing to your own brother.' I was just trying to stand up for someone I never met," Villacampa told ABC News.
Alexiadis then asked Villacampa if he was HIV-positive, and Villacampa responded that he was, the lawsuit states
"I explained his fears were unfounded and there is medication," Villacampa told ABC News. "He just looked at me with a deadpan look. I said it was not a big deal. He didn't know what to say about it."
Around March 14, Villacampa was called into a meeting with Cochrane, the lawsuit states, and told of a "purported 'problem' with Villacampa's work, which had never before been an issue," the lawsuit states.
"They said that my skill set was better served in other dealerships. There was no reason," Villacampa told ABC News.
Around March 19, Villacampa was fired.