A California man has been awarded damages after he was denied service at a Los Angeles barbershop due to his HIV status.
According to Out, in 2017, Nikko Briteramos was a regular customer at King of Kuts and never had any issue until one of the barbers allegedly told the shop’s owner that he was HIV positive. After he was turned away, Briteramos filed a lawsuit against both the shop and its owner, alleging that the acts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.
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The suit was never answered in court. So in January, Briteramos’ lawyer filed for a default judgement. The ongoing lack of response from the shop resulted in judge Andre Birotte Jr.’s deciding to award Briteramos $75,000 in damages, plus $4,600 in attorney’s fees and $574.60 in litigation costs., Lambda Legal Defense and Education fund announced.
“This judgement is proof that what happened to me in that barbershop — and what happens to people living with HIV who experience discrimination just trying to do basic things in life like go to the dentist or get a haircut — is simply not acceptable,” Briteramos said in a statement. “Such discriminatory practices harken back to times not too distant during the period of American ‘Jim Crow’ and are equally unjust.”
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In response to the incident, in 2018 the Black AIDS Institute has launched their Cut the Stigma campaign, which seeks to educate Black businesses about misconceptions surrounding HIV.
“Nikko’s experience highlights how black people living with HIV are confronted with discrimination every day,” explains Raniyah Copeland, a spokesperson for the institute. “But this judgement puts businesses on notice that discrimination will not be tolerated.”
“Freedom for Black people means that all Black people deserve to live without fear of discrimination.”