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HIV-Positive Woman Fights Wal-Mart Firing

WOODLAND, Calif. (CN) - Wal-Mart fired an employee days after she warned away co-workers trying to help her with a bleeding injury that she's HIV-positive, the employee claims in state court.

The employee filed her wrongful termination and disability discrimination suit against Wal-Mart earlier this month in Yolo County Superior Court using her real name. Due to the sensitive nature of her illness, however, Courthouse News has chosen to redact her name.

According to the complaint, the woman suffered a broken wrist and was bleeding from the nose after a shoplifter pushed her through a glass door while working the graveyard shift at a West Sacramento Wal-Mart.

The underage customer carried a 30-pack of beer through the store toward the exit during the early morning hours when the store is prohibited from selling alcohol. The plaintiff went to stop the shoplifter, who shouted "Move, you fucking bitch," before pushing the plaintiff through the door and onto the ground, according to the complaint.

Concerned co-workers rushed to help the plaintiff, who warned them not to touch her because she is HIV-positive.

After the incident, Walmart did not report the theft or the attack to the police, and they did not provide any medical treatment to the plaintiff for three hours, the employee says. Instead, managers told her she would be fired if she left the store and claimed they were detaining her while they looked for a drug-test kit - "even though Wal-Mart sells drug-test kits in the store," the lawsuit says.

The plaintiff was suspended shortly after the attack, and when she complained to corporate about the suspension she was fired two days later, she says in the lawsuit.

When the plaintiff asked the store manager why she had been fired, he told her that "he was not allowed to know because of HIPAA," according to the suit.

HIPAA, the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was passed by Congress to safeguard the privacy of personal health information and applies to entities such as health care providers and company health plans.

The plaintiff says retaliation may be another reason she was fired, since she had refused to redeem the full amount of food-stamp vouchers whether the customer had used the full amount or not.

"For example, plaintiff was told to redeem the full $6 value of a voucher, when only $4.85 was used," the lawsuit states.

"Plaintiff's assistant managers told her that she needed to redeem the full amount, even when the amount purchased was less. When plaintiff told management that this was fraud and she refused to do it, plaintiff was written up for refusing to engage in the fraud," the plaintiff says in the complaint.

She adds that she refused to participate in the scheme because putting a false amount on a WIC voucher is "illegal and could cause a WIC recipient to lose their right to participate in the program."

The plaintiff believes that her refusal to participate in the scheme, her HIV status and the disability caused by her broken wrist were all "motivating reasons in Wal-Mart's decision to terminate her," according to the suit.

The parties did not respond to requests for comment.

Plaintiff is represented by Gregory A. Thyberg, of Granite Bay, Calif.

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