Liam Pierce, former police officer, volunteer firefighter and paramedic, was recently awarded $90,000 in damages when his employment discrimination suit against the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office settled out of court.

This landmark case in employment discrimination brings renewed attention to the discrimination those with HIV face when applying for jobs. Employment discrimination is an unfortunate reality many minority communities must struggle through daily.

The dangers of disclosure

Liam Pierce applied for the job in New Iberia in 2012, seven years after the former paramedic moved to Louisiana to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Pierce claims his interviews all went well and he was on track to get the job until he informed the department’s medical examiner of his HIV status. The officials allegedly assured Pierce his medical condition was not a problem, nor was an incident that got Pierce fired from a previous law enforcement position in Abbeville.

Unfortunately for Pierce, the department denied his application shortly after his exam. Hiring officials cited Pierce’s firing from Abbeville as a pretense, contrary to previous assurances. Bolstered by findings from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that supported Pierce’s claim, the settlement ends his eight-year fight for justice.

The EEOC warns that HIV employment discrimination happens too often. The Americans with Disabilities Act banned HIV discrimination in 2008, but they report HIV discrimination claims are still overrepresented. Even in January 2020, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of two HIV-positive active-duty members of the Air Force. This suit, now back in the lower courts, challenges the Air Force’s policy to discharge servicemembers based solely on an HIV-positive status. This case represents the first time federal courts have ruled in favor of HIV-positive servicemembers.

Legal protection against employment discrimination

Those who believe they are victims of employment discrimination have found legal success with a local lawyer familiar with employment laws. An attorney can help answer questions and provide resources that can help people fight back against employment injustice.