Thousands of people have joined a growing campaign on Change.org in support of James White, a 26-year-old Michigan resident recently diagnosed as HIV + who claims his coworkers at Great Expressions Dental Center subjected him to systematic abuse and harassment, including spraying him with Lysol and prohibiting him from touching doorknobs, before firing him.
The petition campaign on Change.org was started by Jim Harris, a fourth-year student at the University of Oklahoma who directs an HIV/AIDS action group on campus. Harris’ campaign calls on Great Expressions Dental Center to apologize and provide reparations to White.
“It’s absolutely tragic and shocking that thirty years after HIV was first discovered, we’re still seeing vile acts of discrimination toward those who are HIV-positive,” said Harris. “Nobody should have to experience the type of discrimination and harassment that James White suffered. This is too atrocious a crime not to evoke public outrage.”
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Lawyers for James White have called his case the worst case of alleged HIV-related job discrimination they have ever handled. According to White, who was an office assistant at Great Expressions Dental Center, his superiors leaked news of his HIV-positive status to fellow coworkers, several of whom began spraying White with Lysol, prohibiting him from touching doorknobs, and wiping down office furniture and equipment after he used it. Finally, during a stint in the hospital to seek care for his HIV, Great Expressions allegedly called White and told him not to return to work.
The Detroit chapter of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled in White’s favor earlier this year, writing that there was “reasonable cause” to believe White was discriminated against because of his HIV-status. Great Expressions has so far ignored the ruling made by the EEOC.