|Finance Manager Fired For Having HIV?|
|By SUSANNA KIM (@skimm)||Apr 4, 2013, 11:19 AM|
A New York City man claims he was abruptly fired from his finance job at a car dealership after his employer learned he is HIV-positive.
Jeffrey Villacampa, 43, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday 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, individual liability for sexual orientation discrimination against three former colleagues, and retaliation under the New York City Human Rights Law.
Bayside Volkswagen did not return a request for comment.
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.
Cases alleging discrimination against workers who are HIV-positive have 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 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.
Yankov declined to comment to ABC News on behalf of Cochrane and Alexiadis.
"[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.
"HIV has been around for over 30 years. You would think people, adults anyhow, or professionals would know better," Villacampa said.
He declined to discuss his current employment situation, but he said that he no longer has health coverage and has a month's worth of HIV antiviral medication remaining.
"I do good work," Villacampa said. "I love what I do. I get people approved for car loans and I make them happy. It's a big perk of my job. It's something I'm proud of. I work really hard."
Walker Harman Jr. of the Harman firm, Villacampa's legal representation, said his client "wishes that no one has to suffer this type of rather disgusting, deplorable discrimination in the workplace ever again."
"He is a healthy individual who happens to be HIV-positive," Harman said. "He should be treated like any other person at work. In fact, he was not. He was treated like an animal."