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Man sues Louisiana sheriff over alleged HIV discrimination

A Louisiana man who claims he was offered a job, only to have the offer taken back after a medical exam showed he is HIV positive, is suing a sheriff for alleged discrimination.

William ‘Liam’ Pierce claims Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis M. Ackal and two police department captains offered him a position in March 2012 subject to his passing a medical exam.

Pierce was examined in April 2012 – and the resulting medical report stated he had HIV but there were “no significant abnormalities or medical findings,” according to¬†the lawsuit, filed in federal court¬†Tuesday.

Pierce’s resume reads like a good fit for a job in law enforcement, the lawsuit stated.

A former paramedic, EMS instructor, national disaster life support training center coordinator and HIV instructor, Pierce came from Ohio to Louisiana in 2005 to volunteer to help Hurricane Katrina victims, according to the the suit.

He subsequently “developed warm relationships with and affection for the people of Louisiana and ultimately relocated and became a resident,” the lawsuit stated.

Before applying to the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, he worked as an offshore paramedic. In 2008, he started his full-time career as a police officer, first at the Arnaudville Police Department and then the Abbeville Police Department.

“It was a punch in the gut”

“When I was offered the job, I was so excited because I would be helping people and that is what I love to do,” Pierce said in a news release issued by his lawyers at Lamda Legal. “A job in service to the community has been at the center of my life for as long as I can remember so, when the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office took the job offer back, I was just devastated. It was a punch to the gut. I couldn’t believe it.”

The suit requests Pierce be given the job he was offered and seeks unspecified financial damages for lost wages, benefits, emotional pain, anxiety, stress and humiliation.

Sheriff Louis M. Ackal

Pierce is making his discrimination claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Before suing Ackal and his staff, Pierce filed a discrimination charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC issued a determination of probable cause in February 2016, saying the “evidence shows” the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office “more likely than not made the decision to rescind the job offer after becoming knowledgeable of” Pierce’s HIV status,” according to the lawsuit.

Ackal’s attorney, Steve Elledge, said he was aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” Elledge said Monday.