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Burger King Faces Discrimination Lawsuit

Burger King Faces Discrimination Lawsuit

Christopher Peņa worked for Burger King for seven years before he filed a lawsuit against the company this month for discrimination of his HIV-positive status. In the final months of employment with the company he oversaw nine different restaurants, according to the Huffington Post. Although Peņa spent all of these years with the same company, steadily working his way to a higher managerial position, he was suddenly let go in September 2011. Burger King claimed that Peņa showed poor work performance during the last months and was unable to satisfactorily complete his job.

Peņa has another theory as to why the company suddenly cut ties with its employee. He disclosed to his manager that he was HIV-positive in June 2011, only three months prior to his dismissal. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the group representing Peņa in court, argues that his dismissal is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Business Insider. This act covers people who are HIV-positive and ensures that they are treated with fairness by their employers during their illness.

Peņa faced a difficult decision when telling his supervisor about his condition. His upcoming treatments and sick days were inevitable and his employer needed to know why he would miss work on certain occasions. Conversely, he feared the repercussions and discrimination that would follow from superiors and the company as a whole after disclosing his health status. As the civil action complaint states, the “Plaintiff performed satisfactorily for the entire period of his employment.” Yet, his sudden dismissal followed closely on the heels of his disclosure.

And Peņa is by no means the only recent plaintiff reacting to HIV-positive discrimination in the restaurant business. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also represents Reymundo Martinez, who worked at Ivy Restaurant in Los Angeles. Only a few months ago, Martinez filed a complaint against the restaurant which fired him shortly after he began to request schedule changes for required medical treatments for his HIV-positive condition.

Like Peņa, the lawsuit claims that Martinez completed the duties of his job satisfactorily, with no complaints, until he was fired, according to California Public Radio. Both men are represented by MALDEF, a civil rights organization that seeks to “bring Latinos into the mainstream of American political and socio-economic life,” according to its website.  Both men face ethnic and health-related discrimination. Victor Viramontes, Peņa’s main lawyer in the lawsuit, states that discrimination against HIV-positive Latinos is becoming a central concern, especially with the state of health insurance in the United States.

As the Huffington Post highlights in its piece, the most troubling aspect of Peņa’s case is that he had a long record of excellent performance that was suddenly cut off due to performance problems. Peņa claims that other managers in a similar position to him, looking to lose a restaurant due to economic problems, did not face the same treatment as he did.

Burger King has not responded to the new lawsuit as yet and we can only guess that the company will remain committed to the decision to let Peņa go due to performance issues.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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48 comments

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5:26AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

Never frequent Burger King so a boycott isn't necessary for me.

5:24AM PDT on Aug 29, 2012

Stacy C.: Read up on how HIV are transmitted, would you. Please?

2:37PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Hope he wins. Period

10:14PM PDT on May 13, 2012

Some of you clearly haven't worked fast food too recently. I've worked at both McDonalds when I was 16, and a Hardees some time later. At neither did we wear any gloves. Nor was I required, as I've heard it was once done, to take a blood test to prove I carried no communicable diseases and have a food-handler's license.

While I feel sorry for anyone losing their job, this person should not have been working fast food. Go look up Typhoid Mary if you need a reason why. Even if the chance is slim, people with communicable diseases should not be working with other people's food. The laws have gotten lax about this, and if this guy succeeds in his Stella Award of a lawsuit, they'll get even worse. It's one of the bigger reasons why I don't eat out at all any more.

12:46PM PDT on May 11, 2012

As long as he didn't handle food I'd feel safe with him working there. Teh Health Dept. prohibits anyone with such illnesses from working around food.

7:07AM PDT on May 11, 2012

I would prefer to have no one with a communicable disease working around my food. This includes people with coughs and colds, the flu, hepatitis, HIV....

The likelihood of "catching" anything is small... but WHEN something IS "caught" it is "caught" by possibly hundreds of people.

"No" to communicable diseases in or around kitchens serving the public.

5:03AM PDT on May 11, 2012

I think he has a good chance in court, and I wish him luck.

1:57AM PDT on May 11, 2012

I think he should get the best lawyer there is in this field and sue the pants off Burger King. A
man works his tail off for seven years and makes them look good and because he is ill, they fire him and say he is no good. That sucks. I hope both those gentlemen sue and they both win.What a rotten thing to do to a loyal employee. So much for telling the truth, maybe he should have said he had cancer, then they would have sympathized, both diseases can kill you. As a manager he would not be handling the food and even so, they wear gloves, you cannot contact HIV in that manner.

1:16AM PDT on May 11, 2012

Poor treatment of a loyal employee.

1:16AM PDT on May 11, 2012

Poor treatment of a loyal employee.

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