Former Employee Awarded $5M in Ohio HIV Discrimination Lawsuit Against McDonald’s
After less than three hours of deliberation, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court jury on Friday awarded a former McDonald's store manager $5 million in damages, saying that the corporation discriminated against him after learning he is HIV-positive, the AP/Akron Beacon Journal reports. Russell Rich, a 20-year veteran with McDonald's, sued the corporation in October 1998, saying supervisors had altered his duties after he complained about a "hostile work environment." He was hospitalized with an AIDS-related illness in the summer of 1997, two weeks after taking over managerial duties at a corporate-owned store in Minerva, Ohio. According to Rich, the company agreed to let him return to work only if it was permitted to review his medical records. He agreed, but said when he returned to the job his supervisors "refused" to let him perform his management duties, "improperly disciplined" him for job abandonment and asked him to work "unreasonably" long shifts. When he complained to a corporate operations manager, Rich was told to take an unpaid, two-week leave of absence because the manager "did not have time to listen to his complaints." When he attempted to return to work after another bout of illness, he was told that he would be transferred to another store where he would nominally co-manage at a manager's salary, but where he would only be allowed to work the front counter "for the rest of his career." According to his attorney Paige Martin, Rich "suffered greatly over the years." Lisa Howard, a spokesperson for McDonald's, said that the company is considering an appeal. "We respectfully disagree with the jury's decision, and we are currently considering a number of options available," she said (AP/Akron Beacon Journal, 10/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.