Employee with HIV forced out by Kansas City-area restaurant chain, lawsuit says

An employee of a Kansas City-area restaurant chain says he was fired a day after telling a manager that he was diagnosed with HIV, a lawsuit says.

Armando Gutierrez says he began working for The Big Biscuit in Overland Park as a server in 2017. He was given Sundays off because of family commitments, and his bosses “liked his work,” according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That changed a year later when Gutierrez got the diagnosis.

“When I learned I was HIV positive, I became very upset at work,” he wrote in a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “I told management that I had cancer because I did not want to disclose my actual health condition.”

Gutierrez didn’t want to share the diagnosis because of the “social stigma” associated with HIV.

However, a few days later, Gutierrez had to get proof that his employer didn’t provide health insurance to be eligible for a state program that helps people with HIV. He showed the paperwork to his manager for a signature, which would allow him to get medication, according to the lawsuit.

The next day, Gutierrez was informed that he was being transferred to another restaurant location and would begin working on Sundays, according to the lawsuit. He protested the schedule change, “but management refused to budge,” according to the lawsuit.

Then Gutierrez was fired, according to the lawsuit.

An attorney listed for The Big Biscuit did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Gutierrez filed a complaint with the EEOC in May. The commission dismissed the case because it was unable to conclude that The Big Biscuit violated any laws, according to court records. But the commission also didn’t find that the restaurant is in compliance either and provided Gutierrez the right to sue.

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Chacour Koop is a Real-Time reporter based in Kansas City. Previously, he reported for the Associated Press, Galveston County Daily News and Daily Herald in Chicago.