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Man With HIV Gets $500G for Wrongful Termination by Manhattan Hotel

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday March 17, 2014

Three years after his midtown Manhattan employer abruptly fired him, a jury awarded Antonio Muñoz more than $500,000 for being discriminated against due to his HIV status.

"At least I know that I was able to tell my story," Muñoz told the New York Daily News. "I'm working now. I can move on with my life. I did this because I was wronged."

The New York Daily News reports that Muñoz was working as an assistant office manager for the boutique hotel The Manhattan Club on W. 56th Street, and had been awarded two raises and an Exemplary Manager Award in 2008.

That same year, Muñoz was diagnosed with HIV and asked to be taken off the night shift, explaining that his chronic condition required him to take Sustiva, a medication that caused drowsiness.

His supervisor denied the request, even when he presented a doctor's note. She suggested he quit. Instead, he stuck with it, but was told in April 30, 2010 that he would be put back on night shift.

Muñoz filed a "complaint of disability discrimination" with Human Resources, invoking his rights under the ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act. That's when he began receiving scathing evaluations and anonymous complaints. He was fired in 2011, and lost his apartment to foreclosure.

"I fell into a depression," said Muñoz, who eventually got back on his feet and landed a job as a social worker for the mentally challenged.

But last week, he got a boon when a Manhattan Federal Court jury awarded him $185,000 in compensatory damages and $347,500 in punitive damages.

Calling the ruling "completely fair," Muñoz's lawyer, Gregory Antollino, said, "The law protects people who complain about discrimination at the workplace."

According to the blog Global Aging, the 50-year-old Muñoz, the man had battled with alcohol and substance abuse in Canada before getting sober and clean.

His past caught up with him with this HIV diagnosis, and although he was "surprised to see how well his family and friends took it," he could not believe that 30 years since the HIV epidemic began, he had to still face stigma and discrimination associated with HIV.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.