Thousands demand apology for HIV-positive man fired by nationwide dental chain


DETROIT -

Thousands of people have joined a growing campaign on Change.org in support of James White, a 26-year-old Michigan resident recently diagnosed with HIV who claims his coworkers at Great Expressions Dental Center subjected him to systematic abuse and harassment, including spraying him with Lysol and prohibiting him from touching doorknobs, before firing him.

The petition campaign on http://www.Change.org was started by James Harris, a fourth-year student at the University of Oklahoma who directs an HIV/AIDS action group on campus. Harris' campaign calls on Great Expressions Dental Center to apologize and provide reparations to White.

"It's absolutely tragic and shocking that thirty years after HIV was first discovered, we're still seeing vile acts of discrimination toward those who are HIV-positive," said Harris. "Nobody should have to experience the type of discrimination and harassment that James White suffered. This is too atrocious a crime not to evoke public outrage."

Lawyers for James White have called his case the worst case of alleged HIV-related job discrimination they have ever handled. According to White, who was an office assistant at Great Expressions Dental Center, his superiors leaked news of his HIV-positive status to fellow coworkers, several of whom began spraying White with Lysol, prohibiting him from touching doorknobs, and wiping down office furniture and equipment after he used it. Finally, during a stint in the hospital to seek care for his HIV, Great Expressions allegedly called White and told him not to return to work.

The Detroit chapter of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in White's favor earlier this year, writing that there was "reasonable cause" to believe White was discriminated against because of his HIV-status. Great Expressions has so far ignored the ruling made by the EEOC.

"This campaign on http://www.Change.org shows the incredible reach of the web to affect social change," said Michael Jones, senior organizer at http://www.Change.org. "An HIV/AIDS activist in Oklahoma, outraged at a case of alleged HIV discrimination in Michigan was able to generate national momentum to amplify James White's case and send a clear message that discrimination based on HIV status will not be tolerated."

Great Expressions Dental Centers is a national chain of dental care providers that operate 150 offices in seven states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia. They are owned by OMERS, an international private equity firm with offices in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Live signature totals from James Harris' campaign can be viewed at:

http://www.change.org/petitions/great-expressions-dental-center-reparations-to-discriminated-hiv-employee

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