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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 26, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 21
Ex-waiter sues New York restaurant for HIV discrimination
Section One
ALL STORIES
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Ex-waiter sues New York restaurant for HIV discrimination

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A New York City waiter is suing the trendy Buddakan restaurant for HIV discrimination. Jack Mountford started working at the restaurant in February 2013 and charges he was fired in June 2016 because he is HIV positive.

According to Mountford, he has been positive since 2010. He says notified Buddakans general manager and other managers at the time, because on occasion he needed to take time off to meet with his medical team.

Buddakan management accommodated Mountford, allowing him time off and extra breaks so that he could inject himself in the stomach with medication, court documents say.

Then a scathing 2015 review in Eater NY magazine prompted Starr Restaurants, Buddakans parent company, to bring in a new management team.

Brandon Wergeles was brought in as general manager, and he did not continue the policy of accommodating Mountfords health problems, the suit says.

After Mountford returned from a weeklong vacation in June 2016, he was told by a colleague that Wergeles had been meeting with other managers to discuss Mountfords health.

A week later, Mountford said, he was confronted by Wergeles and two other managers. He was told he was a huge asset to the company but became a liability because a patron alleged his credit card was charged twice on a $62 bill, the suit says. He was also accused of taking an unauthorized vacation.

Wergeles said he had heard other things that were concerning, the suit says. When Mountford asked if he was referring to his HIV status, Wergeles responded, Dont you think I should be made aware of a health condition that could be detrimental to your job performance?

Mountford told the New York Post that after being humiliated and fired, Wergeles offered to write him a glowing recommendation.

A manager then escorted Mountford out of the restaurant. Mountford broke down and cried, he said.

Mountford has denied the allegations that he overcharged a customer and took an unauthorized vacation. In fact, he says, he is responsible for up to $20,000 in sales. The only reason for the firing is his HIV status, he charges.

Its Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, he said. I never expected to be in a position where a piece of my life that is so personal and unrelated to my job performance was thrown in my face.

Its not the spread of HIV that [the] defendants should worry about, its their spread of prejudice, Mountfords lawyer, Paul Liggieri, said.

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