Joseph Lewis, who was formerly employed by the carrier as an aircraft maintenance technician, has been awarded $1.3 million in damages.
A former member of staff has successfully sued Delta Air Lines after a federal jury in Nevada found that the carrier had failed to make accommodations for his HIV-positive status, Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports.
Joseph Lewis had been employed by the carrier since 2000, working out of McCarran International Airport (LAS). In 2011, Lewis began suffering from an unknown disease and took his allocated sick leave plus his vacation entitlement before being diagnosed with HIV, when he was able to receive treatment under the carrier’s health care plan. This, the outlet reports, ensured that Lewis could carry on with his role.
However, a health insurance representative acting on behalf of the carrier halted the refills of Lewis’ medication. Lewis was then unable to take his HIV medication for two weeks while Delta transferred him to a more affordable health insurance plan.
Lewis’ condition worsened, but as he had taken all of his leave, he continued to work.
It is reported that the carrier’s HR team, who were aware of his HIV-positive status, accused Lewis of taking unauthorized leave. He was then suspended and fired and while Lewis attempted an appeal, the airline’s HR department was unwilling to schedule a hearing.
Lewis’ case was then filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act back in 2014, but the federal jury hearing the case has only just returned a verdict this year. It was decided that the carrier both failed to accommodate Lewis’ condition by not providing his medication in a timely manner and ended his employment due to his HIV-positive status. As a result of the verdict, Lewis has been awarded $1.3 million in damages.
Richard Segerblom, lead trial counsel and Nevada State Senator, commented on the case, saying, “The verdict is likely to be the largest verdict for employment discrimination in Nevada history.”
The carrier, however, has been quick to defend its actions. In a statement issued via e-mail, it said, “Delta stands by its decision to terminate this former employee for misreporting hours worked for pay purposes and for being dishonest during Delta’s investigation, both violations of company policy.”