Three-Judge Ohio Appeals Court Panel Overturns McDonald’s HIV Discrimination Case Ruling
A three-judge panel of the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals on Friday overturned a $5 million award for a former McDonald's store manager who claimed that the corporation discriminated against him after learning he was HIV-positive, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/13). A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in October 2001 ruled that McDonald's had discriminated against Russell Rich, who had worked at McDonald's for 20 years. Rich 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 that 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 would only be allowed to work the front counter "for the rest of his career" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29/01).
The court panel ruled that McDonald's did not have a fair trial, the Journal reports. McDonald's attorney Steven Catlett said that the company is "pleased" with the ruling, adding that the company is still open to reaching a settlement with Rich. Paige Martin, Rich's attorney, said that McDonald's' $300,000 settlement offer is "inadequate," the Journal reports. Rich has not received any money from the previous ruling. Martin said that she plans to appeal the case to the Ohio Supreme Court (Wall Street Journal, 10/13).