LA barbershop fined $75,000 after refusing to cut HIV-positive man’s hair

A barbershop in Los Angeles has been ordered to pay $75,000 in damages after refusing to cut the hair of an HIV-positive man.

Los Angeles barbershop King of Kuts had faced legal action after denying Nikko Briteramos a haircut in October 2017 because he is living with HIV.

Court upholds HIV discrimination complaint

Briteramos had received haircuts at the business multiple times, but was refused a cut after one of the barbers, who knew him personally, shared his HIV status with the owner.

On Tuesday (June 4), LGBT+ non-profit Lambda Legal announced that a discrimination complaint had prevailed.

Judge André Birotte Jr. of the United States District Court for the Central District of California sided with Briteramos in the dispute.

The barbershop was ordered to pay $75,000 in damages, $4,600 in attorney’s fees, and  $574.60 in litigation costs.

Barbershop judgement ‘shows discrimination is not acceptable’

Briteramos, who works as a personal trainer, said in a statement: “This judgment 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 the dentist or get a haircut is simply not acceptable.

“Such discriminatory practices harken back to times not too distant during the period of American ‘Jim Crow’, and are equally unjust.”

Briteramos now campaigns on HIV issues, and said he would continue to “share with people how harmful these moments of discrimination can be to those living daily with HIV and to the fabric of society.”

Raniyah Copeland of the Black AIDS Institute added: “Nikko’s experience highlights how Black people living with HIV are confronted with discrimination every day, but this judgment 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.”

Lambda Legal law fellow Anthony Pinggera said: “This ruling is a terrific affirmation for our client, and it is a clear and forceful rebuke of intentional discrimination against people living with HIV.

“This is the end of Nikko’s case, but our work to raise necessary awareness in Black communities around the country to the ongoing issues surrounding HIV discrimination continues through our partnership with the Black AIDS Institute on the Cut the Stigma campaign.”

It is impossible for someone living with HIV who has an undetectable viral load to transmit the virus.

Campaigners say there is no risk to dentists or barbers who treat patients with HIV.

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