Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is being sued in federal court for alleged workplace discrimination, accused of deciding against hiring a potential sheriff’s deputy based on their status as HIV positive.
Judge Michael Juneau heard oral arguments during a motions hearing on Thursday to assign liability. Attorneys for plaintiff William Pierce argued that the case should be ruled on in their favor without a trial because of their claim that Ackal violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pierce claims that he was discriminated against in 2012 when he applied to be a sheriff’s deputy with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Court documents state that Pierce completed a background check and an interview for the job and was told afterward that he would get the job after completing a pre-employment medical exam.
He revealed during that exam that he was HIV-positive. However, the medical examiners said he could safely perform his job duties as a sheriff’s deputy.
Pierce states that he then received a letter informing him that his job offer had been rescinded after the IPSO had learned of his HIV status.
Ackal and the IPSO maintain that the reason they did not hire Pierce was due to an incident that occurred when Pierce worked for the Abbeville Police Department. Pierce worked at the APD from 2009 to 2012. Court records state that Pierce was terminated from APD for discharging his firearm while he had two prisoners in custody.
Pierce maintains that IPSO knew of the incident when they interviewed him for the job.
Pierce’s attorneys argue that Ackal and the IPSO made an adverse employment decision based on Pierce’s HIV status and cannot articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for refusing to hire him.
Ackal’s defense argued that there was no discussion on Pierce’s medical condition and that media reports at the time about the APD incident are what motivated the IPSO’s decision not to hire Pierce.
The judge denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on liability on the grounds that Ackal has recently made himself available for deposition. Ackal previously told the court that he would not be able to be deposed for medical reasons.
“I don’t think summary judgment is appropriate,” said Juneau. “I would like to move forward.”
The case is set to go to trial on Jan. 6, 2020.