A former shoe department manager at a J.C. Penney department store in Niles, Ill., has filed suit against the company, claiming he was wrongly fired because he is HIV-positive, the Chicago Tribune reports. Joseph Manasse says managers at the store falsely accused him of theft because they wanted an excuse to fire him because his HIV status made them uncomfortable.
Managers at the store fired Manasse after cash registers in the shoe department were a combined $66.20 short on three separate days, and they said security cameras showed Manasse stealing the money. The company pressed charges, but Manasse was found not guilty in the case. He says he is now unable to find employment due to the theft allegation in his credit report. He is suing J.C. Penney for more than $7 million. Store manager James Voeller and loss-prevention managers Michael Chubeck and Rodney Wetmore are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Manasse ran the department store's show department for 15 months until May 20, 2003. During his tenure shoe sales climbed 11%, and the company gave him a merit pay increase and an excellent performance review less than one month before he was fired. A J.C. Penney spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.