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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 7, 2019 - Volume 47 Issue 23
Barbershop sued for rejecting HIV+ client, must pay $75K
Section One
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Barbershop sued for rejecting HIV+ client, must pay $75K

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Los Angeles barbershop must pay $75,000 in damages to a former client who was turned away after the business owner discovered he was HIV-positive.

Nikko Briteramos was a regular client of Kings of Kuts barbershop in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, but when he went in for a haircut in October 2017, he was unexpectedly turned away.

Shop owner Ramsy Milton refused to cut Briteramos's hair or to allow any of his employees to do so, after being informed by one of the barbers that the client was HIV-positive.

Briteramos and Lambda Legal attorneys filed suit against the barbershop and its owner, charging them with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and California's Unruh Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him based on his HIV status.

US District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. entered summary judgment in Briteramos's favor on June 4, after Milton failed to respond to the lawsuit. In addition to $75,000 in actual and punitive damages, the plaintiff was awarded attorney's fees of $4,600 and court costs of $574.60.

'This ruling is a terrific affirmation for our client, and it is a clear and forceful rebuke of intentional discrimination against people living with HIV,' Anthony Pinggera, the Lambda Legal law fellow leading the case, said in the press release.

'This is the end of Nikko's case, but our work to raise necessary awareness in black communities around the country to the ongoing issues surrounding HIV discrimination continues through our partnership with the Black AIDS Institute on the 'Cut the Stigma' campaign.'

'This judgment is proof that what happened to me in that barbershop and what happens to people living with HIV who experience discrimination just trying to do basic things in life, like go the dentist or get a haircut, is simply not acceptable,' Briteramos said in a statement.

His case prompted Lambda Legal and the Black AIDS Institute to launch a public education campaign called 'Cut the Stigma,' hoping to dispel misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted and reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with the virus are subjected to.

The fact that Briteramos experienced discrimination at a barbershop is important, the two organizations pointed out, because barbershops are important gathering spaces for the African-American community.

'It was the last place from which he expected to be cast out and ostracized as 'the other,' the lawsuit notes.

'Nikko's experience highlights how black people living with HIV are confronted with discrimination every day, but this judgment puts businesses on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated,' added Black AIDS Institute CEO Raniyah Copeland.

'Freedom for black people means that ALL black people deserve to live without fear of discrimination.'

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