Firing over AIDS rumor spurs suit HARFORD COUNTY

December 18, 1992|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a part-time cook fired by his civilian employer at Aberdeen Proving Ground because of a rumor that he was HIV positive or had the AIDS virus.

The suit alleges that HLJ Management Group Inc. "wrongfully and abusively" discharged Edward L. Saddler of the 300 block of Walker Ave. in Aberdeen. Mr. Saddler tested negative for the human immunodeficiency virus.

The suit contends that the Kansas-based company violated Mr. Saddler's privacy, "intentionally inflicted emotional distress" and forced him to endure a test for acquired immune deficiency syndrome as a condition for rehiring him.

The company, the suit claims, violated a state law forbidding an employer to require an applicant to answer questions about any physical illness that doesn't affect his work.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court last Friday, seeks $100,000 in damages from the food service company and a court order barring it from requiring an AIDS test as a condition of employment.

The suit said that Mr. Saddler was hired Nov. 1, 1990, and that his work went well until Feb. 25, 1991, when an HLJ supervisor told him he was being fired because an employee had reported that he either was HIV-positive or had the AIDS virus.

While no legitimate evidence links food handling to the spread of HIV or the AIDS virus, Mr. Saddler did "involuntarily and under extreme duress" have an AIDS test on Feb. 28, 1991, the suit said.

Mr. Saddler tested negative and was rehired July 1991.

The suit claimed that on his return, fellow employees made jokes about his health, and nobody wanted to work or eat with him.

After his work hours were gradually reduced, Mr. Saddler was fired again in September 1991, the suit said.

One of the attorneys representing Mr. Saddler, William H. Briggs Jr., of Ross, Dixon and Masback in Washington, described his client as "a very shy person who wants his privacy."

Mr. Briggs said that he advised Mr. Saddler not to discuss the case before it has been settled.

HLJ officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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