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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 12
New York man wins HIV discrimination suit
Section One
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New York man wins HIV discrimination suit

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal court awarded a New York hotel worker more than $500,000 in damages after he was fired from his job because of a dispute over his HIV status.

Antonio Muñoz was an assistant office manager at the Manhattan Club, described by the New York Daily News as a 'boutique hotel and timeshare' in midtown Manhattan. He started working there in 2007, was recognized as an 'Exemplary Manager' in 2008, but was fired in February 2011 when he filed a discrimination complaint against the hotel.

Munoz said the trouble started when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2008. He then asked to be transferred from the night shift because his antiretrovirals caused him to feel drowsy at night.

According to court documents, his supervisor denied the request. Even after he produced a doctor's note, his supervisor not only turned him down, she suggested that he quit, the suit says.

Eventually the hotel did transfer Muñoz to a day shift, but it didn't last. His supervisor told him he would be put back on nights starting April 30, 2010, prompting Muñoz to file a 'complaint of disability discrimination' with the hotel's Human Resources Department.

Not long after, Muñoz received a scathing evaluation 'full of falsehoods,' his filing documents say. He was fired in February 2011 after an anonymous complaint was leveled against him.

Over the next year Muñoz struggled to find work and lost his apartment to foreclosure.

'I fell into a depression,' he told the Daily News.

Muñoz eventually found a job as a social worker, and his suit against his former employer reached a successful conclusion on March 13, when a federal jury awarded him $185,000 in compensatory damages and $347,500 in punitive damages.

Muñoz said he was 'ecstatic' over the verdict, but the money was never the point.

'At least I know that I was able to tell my story,' he told the Daily News. 'I'm working now. I can move on with my life. I did this because I was wronged.'

Muñoz's lawyer, Gregory Antollino, called the ruling 'completely fair.'

'The law protects people who complain about discrimination at the workplace,' Antollino added. Federal law prohibits both discrimination against HIV-positive individuals, and retaliation against employees who complain about workplace discrimination.

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