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On April 11, 2001, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the $80,000 settlement of an HIV discrimination lawsuit filed against Marsh’s Sun Fresh grocery store in the Westport area of Kansas City, Mo. The suit, filed in September 2000 under the Americans with Disabilities Act, charged The General Store No. 2, doing business as Marsh’s Sun Fresh, with unlawfully terminating an employee because he was HIV-positive. The suit also claimed that Marsh’s Sun Fresh conducted unlawful inquiries into the worker’s HIV status and failed to maintain the confidentiality of his health information. In the proposed Consent Decree, now pending approval of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City, Marsh’s Sun Fresh agreed to pay $80,000 in backpay and damages to the employee. The store fired the employee, a deli worker, in June 1998 after a supervisor inquired about his HIV status and learned that he was HIV-positive. The supervisor also told a co-worker that the deli worker was HIV-positive. The Consent Decree provides that Marsh’s will not discriminate against employees on the basis of any disability, including HIV or AIDS; that it will not ask its employees about their HIV or AIDS status; and that it will maintain the confidentiality of employees’ medical information. Also as part of the settlement, Marsh’s Sun Fresh agreed to provide training for all of its managers and supervisors so that they will understand the employment discrimination laws protecting individuals with HIV, AIDS and other disabilities. The training will emphasize which diseases can be transmitted through the food supply. HIV is not contagious through food handling, and neither the Kansas City Health Department nor the U.S.Government restricts the employment of people with HIV in food service jobs. Additionally, Marsh’s Sun Fresh made no admissions as to any violation of the ADA or any other law. According to Robert G. Johnson, the EEOC’s Regional Attorney in St. Louis, this is the Commission’s first such case in Kansas City, and he hopes that the settlement will serve to deter future discrimination. “Employers and the public must be educated about the laws protecting people with disabilities, including HIV and AIDS. We need to spread the word that discriminating against people with these or other disabilities is bad business.” EEOC Chair Ida L. Castro stated: “Workers with HIV and AIDS must have the same opportunities to earn a living and provide for their families as other employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that businesses make employment decisions based on workers’ abilities to do their jobs, not on stereotypes and fears regarding particular illnesses.” Lynn Y. Bruner, Director of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, remarked, “We are very pleased that Marsh’s Sun Fresh has resolved this matter and agreed to train their workforce concerning unlawful employment discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS. This agreement demonstrates the commitment of Marsh’s Sun Fresh to fair employment practices.” The employee had filed his own lawsuit and was represented in the settlement by Joseph K. Eischens and Michael S. Ketchmark from the Kansas City, Missouri law firm of Davis, Ketchmark, Eischens & McCreight. Both lawsuits will be resolved once the district court approves the settlement.

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