Posts Tagged ‘ HIV/AIDS ’

Great Expressions Dental Centers runs misinformation campaign

By Joshua L. Moore
President, Detroit Legal Services

Over the past month, Great Expressions Dental Centers has brought forth a campaign of misinformation that is, quite frankly, appalling. I have worked in HIV services for 18 years and have never observed such behavior out of a group of human beings toward the HIV population. I am not sure if they received bad PR advice or if this was a panicked response to a growing movement from a petition on Change.org, but Great Expressions crossed the line with their misinformation and contradictory responses to James White.

Richard Beckman, CEO of Great Expressions, stated that the company was “very sympathetic toward anybody with HIV.” Yet, in the same breath Great Expressions filed a lawsuit against James White alleging, among other things, that James “has fostered an online campaign against Plaintiff seeking to induce other individuals to protest Plaintiff’s services, and paint Plaintiff in a false, negative light.” Let’s be clear, James White did not foster anything online or off against Great Expressions. The campaign online was in response to a POZ Magazine article about James White and his case. The campaign was started by James Harris, a young HIV positive activist who felt compelled to offer his support for James White through an online petition on the website Change.org.

Mr. Beckman’s sympathy spills over to James Harris. The young college student trying to help make a difference was sent a threatening letter from the Great Expressions attorney. The cease and desist letter sent from Great Expressions’ attorney, among other things, suggests to Mr. Harris that he would need to hire an attorney to defend himself against legal action from Great Expressions. Great Expressions sympathy seems to only be for those with HIV that do not question his company’s policies.

Great Expressions states that they did not fire James White because of his HIV status, but instead insist that it was due to James being tardy and absent. The EEOC investigated this case thoroughly and concluded that Great Expressions reasons for firing James were “pretextual.” The EEOC ruled that Great Expressions was untruthful in their reasoning of why they fired James White. Nevertheless, Great Expressions refuses to stop with the nonsense, reasoning they fired James due to unexcused absences.

According to The Detroit News, Mr. Beckman stated that he would not normally comment on something like this but it has “gotten out of control.” So Great Expressions will respect the privacy of their employees and former employees unless the situation gets “out of control.” Great Expressions has stated that they do not discriminate against the GLBTQ (sic) community. However, this is not about the LGBTQ community, this is about discrimination under the ADA and the determination by the EEOC that Great Expressions did subject James to discriminatory discipline, denied reasonable accommodations, and that the reason Great Expressions gave (i.e. tardiness and absences) for firing James was untruthful.

Great Expressions could have chosen to do the right thing and set an example for corporate responsibility. Instead, they have chosen to bully those with HIV and spread misinformation. Great Expressions can still choose to do the right thing. They could choose to embrace the HIV community and educate themselves. As a long term person living with HIV, I can tell them one thing is for sure: The HIV community is not going anywhere and this will not end until they choose to do the right thing.

Legal experts allege further harassment by HIV-positive employee’s former employer

A Detroit-area HIV-positive man who alleges to have been followed around by coworkers with cans of Lysol to spray his work area, relentlessly harassed and ultimately fired from his job because he revealed his status to a supervisor is being further victimized by his former employer, according to his attorneys.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently determined that James White had just cause to file a complaint against Great Expressions Dental Care, a chain with offices in Michigan and six other states. White’s attorneys are preparing to file a lawsuit. The EEOC findings read in part:

“The Commission’s investigation substantiates the Charging party’s allegations that the Respondent organization subjected him to discriminatory discipline, that the Respondent organization denied Charging Party reasonable accommodation, and that the legitimate non-discriminatory  reason offered for the Charging Party’s discharge was untruthful (i.e. pretextual).”

After recent local and national media interest and a petition created by a student on Change.org, which garnered more than 41,000 votes in a few days, Great Expressions responded with threats of legal action. A civil suit claiming false allegations, a “cease and desist” order to the creator of the original Change.org petition (which was quickly replaced by another supporter), and online statements all occurred Wednesday.

“We are outraged by the further, relentless discrimination and bullying toward an individual who has been traumatized more than anyone should ever be,” said President of Detroit Legal Services (DLS) Joshua L. Moore.

Detroit Legal Services has been handling the case for White since charges were originally filed several years ago. DLS continues to represent White, along with attorney Nicole Thompson.

Thompson is glad to see that White has so many supporters, as evidenced by the astounding success of the petition on his behalf, adding that she ” … hopes the legal system will provide the ultimate support to James, by ensuring that he receives the justice that he deserves after everything he has suffered.”

The law firm of Devaney Jacob and Wilson in Troy, Mich., served White with a civil suit on Wednesday alleging innocence on behalf of Great Expressions, in direct conflict with the findings of the EEOC.

DLS has become a sought-after nationwide expert in HIV/AIDS legal matters. Through its specialized program, DLS has successfully used its expertise and resources to provide personalized legal services for more than 300 clients to date who have found themselves struggling within the system.

The firm, headquartered in Detroit, proudly gives 10 percent of its earnings back to the community via donations to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.

“We strongly suggest Great Expressions require all employees participate in HIV Education courses,” said Moore. “A workplace imbued with ignorance and fear is unacceptable – no one should have to tolerate it, let alone a person with a serious medical condition. The actions of Great Expressions amount to nothing less than a campaign of intimidation and error.”

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For more information:
Detroit Legal Services Blog
Detroit Legal Services Facebook page
Article on POZ
New Change.org petition

HIV advocates call for justice for workplace discrimination victim

A Detroit-area HIV-positive man was followed around by coworkers with cans of Lysol, relentlessly harassed and ultimately fired from his job because he revealed his status to a colleague, according to a pending lawsuit.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that James White had just cause to file a complaint against Great Expressions Dental Care, a chain with offices in Michigan and six other states. The company, however, rejected the claim and White’s attorneys are preparing to file a lawsuit.

Detroit Legal Services has been handling the case for White since the charges were originally filed several years ago. DLS continues to represent White, along with attorney Nicole Thompson.

DLS has become a sought-after nationwide expert in HIV/AIDS legal matters. Through its specialized program, DLS has successfully used its expertise and resources to provide personalized legal services for more than 300 clients to date who have found themselves struggling within the system.

The firm, headquartered in Detroit, proudly gives 10 percent of its earnings back to the community via donations to HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations.

The case has garnered national attention, with articles appearing the Huffington Post, numerous online magazines and blogs and Detroit television news.

“We find the actions of Great Expressions Dental Care to be truly despicable,” said DLS President Joshua L. Moore. “We will continue to pursue justice for Mr. White for the unconscionable trauma he has suffered.”

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More information can be found here.

Take action, sign the Change.org petition.

What is World AIDS Day?

Each year on Dec. 1 people worldwide unite to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS. It is a day to remember those we have lost to this disease and to show support to those who are still battling it. World AIDS day began in 1988 and is the first ever global health day. HIV/AIDS affects everyone. This day is an opportunity for people to unite and come together to fight stigma, discrimination, and bring to light issues that fuel the HIV epidemic like poverty and health disparities.

Detroit Legal Services will be commemorating the day by engaging in activities in the community to promote awareness and connect people to the exceptional services we provide. As part of our commitment to supporting local agencies in our community, we are sponsoring several events. We hope to engage others by reaching out on this day, sharing our stories and helping others. Look for us at the following events:

Dec. 1, 2011

World AIDS Day Mayors Breakfast with Jeanne White-Ginder
World AIDS Day Detroit Honorary Host Committee Chair Max Fisher, Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh, Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour, and Wayne State University Medical School Dean Dr. Valerie M. Parisi host Mayors Breakfast with keynote speaker and mother of Ryan White, Jeanne White-Ginder.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 8 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Michigan Department of Community Health World AIDS Day Meeting
MDCH hosts community meeting for Detroit area schools and community members with educational sessions, workshops and special 30 years of AIDS presentation.
Location: Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Rd. Detroit, MI 48235
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Bad Blood Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Public screening for documentary released in July 2010 telling the story of how HIV entered the blood supply. Panel features producer and director Marilyn Ness and cast members Dr. Glenn Pierce, Dr. Dana Kuhn and Eric Weinberg.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 4-5:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Private Reception with Jeanne White-Ginder
Honorary host committee, dignitaries, sponsors and special guests welcome Jeanne White-Ginder to Michigan with special recognition this 30th year of AIDS.
Location: Fillmore Theater 2115 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48201
Time: 6-7:00 p.m.
Phone: (313) 961-5451

Dec. 4, 2011

World AIDS Day Town Hall Awareness
A town hall to help spread awareness about HIV. A community issue that effects us all.
Location: Third New Hope Baptist Church West Campus 5439 Warren Ave Detroit, MI
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Phone: (313) 896-4070

For more information, visit:
World AIDS Day Campaign
World AIDS Day Detroit

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