Justly or unjustly, many Colorado businesses have been accused of wrongfully terminating employees for any number of reasons. Facing this kind of suit is perhaps the worst nightmare for many employers, as allegations of employment discrimination and wrongful termination are often perpetuated in the press without sharing both sides of the story. That can lead to damage to a company's reputation, even in cases in which the heads of a company believed they were acting in good faith.
That may have been the case with Maverik Inc., a billion-dollar company that operates about 200 gas stations and convenience stores across 10 western states. However, in late September 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it wrongfully terminated an HIV-positive employee.
In this case, the employee in question was a bakery clerk, and the company had concerns about allowing someone with HIV to be involved in the area of food preparation. However, the EEOC ruled against the company's concerns, saying they were unfounded. In particular, the federal agency claimed that Maverik had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in dismissing the employee.
Instead of fighting the allegations of wrongful termination, the company decided to settle the lawsuit for $115,000. Often, companies decide to settle up front rather than face the prospect of unfavorable press coverage, even when the company believes it is in the right. Nonetheless, Colorado businesses should take note of the lawsuit as they try to stay within the letter of the law. That is, before dismissing an employee, it may perhaps be best to check the applicable regulations to ensure that the dismissal does not run afoul of any rules. Otherwise, a business could end up facing potentially damaging allegations of employment discrimination.
Source: thejobmouse.com, "Maverik Fires Employee With HIV And Agrees To Pay $115,000 To Settle Lawsuit," Anneline Waldman, Nov. 8, 2011