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Burger King Fired HIV Positive Employee

A fast food restaurant manager has filed a lawsuit against Burger King for wrongful termination after he told his boss that he was HIV positive.

Christopher Pena, 35, had worked for the fast food giant for seven years and explained that he was fired last September, a few months after he had disclosed to his superiors his HIV status.

Victor Viramontes, a lawyer representing Pena, is senior counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and sees discrimination against Latinos who are HIV positive as a serious problem.

"When they're fired from their job, they frequently lose their healthcare with it," Viramontes said.

Viramontes said that the termination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, legislation that was passed which prohibits discrimination based on disability and covers people who are HIV positive.

Pena became aware of his HIV status in April 2011 and wrestled with the idea of telling his boss. But in June 2011 he thought that he should tell them just in case there is an incident at work or if he needed time off due to his condition.

"It was a very personal decision that I thought about before I did it," Peña said. "I was looking more for guidance and support, and that's why I did it."

According to court documents, Pena was fired last September after he was cited for "poor work performance," although he had never had previous performance issue.

"After I disclosed, I was not the only person in my position who had these types of incidents occur in their restaurants, and I was the only one who was being treated this way," he said.

Viramontes said he took Pena's case due to the fact that he had a long history of good work performance with Burger King.

"The fact pattern is very troubling, particularly against a large corporate entity like Burger King," he said. "We wanted to step in and send a message to employers that this is inappropriate."

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