LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A January trial date has been set in a lawsuit accusing a Louisiana sheriff of rescinding a job offer to an applicant who is HIV-positive.
William “Liam” Pierce sued Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal and two captains last year, saying they violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit says Ackal’s office offered Pierce a job as a deputy in 2012, but rescinded the offer after a required physical examination showed he was HIV-positive.
The Acadiana Advocate reports a federal judge in Lafayette rejected a motion Thursday to declare the sheriff liable in the case. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Juneau made it clear his decision was not based on the case’s merits, but on Ackal’s unavailability to answer pre-trial questions.
Juneau scheduled a trial for Jan. 6.
Court filings state that the sheriff’s office has claimed the decision against hiring Pierce was based on alleged misconduct when Pierce was with the Abbeville Police Department.
Pierce was fired from that department, where he worked from 2009 to 2012, for discharging a firearm while he had two prisoners in custody, according to court records. That information was disclosed in writing on his Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office job application, according to Pierce’s legal team, and orally during his job interview for the sheriff’s office, a transcript of which is in the court record.
Pierce’s lawsuit says he filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2012. The commission issued findings in 2016 that evidence showed the decision to rescind the job offer was likely a result of the HIV diagnosis.
Pierce’s attorneys in the case include lawyers for Lambda Legal, an organization that promotes civil rights for the LGBT community and people with HIV.
“No matter how they try to justify the conduct, the Iberia Parish Sheriff withdrew the job offer directly after learning of Liam’s HIV status, and that’s illegal discrimination plain and simple,” Scott Schoettes of Lamda Legal said in a news release.