EEOC Sues Butterball for Bias against HIV-Positive Employee

December 5, 2011 ( – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged Butterball, LLC with discrimination against an HIV-positive employee. 

According to a statement by the EEOC, Butterball, LLC, a Garner, North Carolina-based turkey processing company, subjected an employee to a hostile work environment because she has Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The agency says Butterball fired the employee because of the disability.

According to the lawsuit, Butterball subjected Tracy Montgomery to harassment throughout her employment from October-November 2009. Three of Montgomery’s co-workers expressed to her on a daily basis they did not want to touch her or work with her because she is HIV-positive. The three employees referred to Montgomery using derogatory names to describe her HIV status.

The EEOC also alleges that Montgomery complained to her supervisor about the harassment on a daily or near-daily basis, however the harassment continued. Butterball’s plant manager was also aware of the harassment after conducting a meeting with Montgomery and one of her co-workers to address the altercation the co-worker had provoked. However, the following day the plan manager fired Montgomery.

Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) employees with disabilities are protected from being harassed, fired or from other employment decisions based on disabilities that are covered under the act, such as HIV. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Butterball, LLC, No: 5:11-cv00685) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking monetary damages for Montgomery, as well as certain injunctive relief.