HIV-positive gymnast sues Cirque du Soleil
July 17 2003 12:00 AM ET
An HIV-positive gymnast has filed a federal complaint accusing Cirque du Soleil of denying him the chance to take part in an acrobatic act in the circus troupe's Las Vegas show. Matthew Cusick, 31, of Maryland, alleges the company violated state and federal discrimination laws by firing him. His complaint was filed Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Los Angeles. A spokeswoman for the Canada-based Cirque du Soleil declined to comment. "We won't be commenting on this subject until the legal process continues on its due course," said Renee Claude Menard.
According to the complaint, Cusick disclosed his condition to Cirque du Soleil shortly after being hired last July as a catcher for an acrobatic act. He said he also underwent several medical evaluations and was told by Cirque du Soleil's staff doctor that he was in excellent health and considered fully able
to perform with the circus troupe. But shortly before he was to begin performing for the show Mystere in Las Vegas, Cusick said, the company sent him a letter stating his medical condition
"will likely pose a direct threat of harm to others, particularly in the case of future injury." His job called for him to hang by his legs from a swinging bar and catch other performers. "Cirque du Soleil denied Matthew this job not because of sound science or rational concern for other employees, but because of unfounded fear," said Cusick's attorney, Hayley Gorenberg. The EEOC reviews discrimination complaints and often mediates attempts to resolve them. If those attempts are unsuccessful in this case, Gorenberg said, Cusick may sue.