Earlier this month, retired Target worker Douglas Decker filed suit against a Target in St. Paul, MN that he had been a customer at for more than a decade.
On September 22, 2015, Decker inquired about a flu shot while picking up a prescription at the Target pharmacy. The technician at the front desk asked Decker what kind of flu shot he needed. Decker then he disclosed his HIV status and his age in hopes that the technician would help him find the vaccination that suited him. But when he disclosed his positive status, the technician, as written in the complaint, “physically backed away and told Mr. Decker that he would need to speak to the pharmacist.”
The pharmacist told Decker he could not be administered a flu shot there and that he should go to a clinic or his doctor. Decker then asked if the reason they were refusing service was because of his HIV status, and the technician confirmed that it was.
Decker reached out to Target regarding the situation but was told that employees are allowed to deny services for any reason. According to the complaint, Decker’s attorney Lynn Mickelson of JustUs Health (formerly the Minnesota AIDS Project) tried to engage with Target, but was ignored or sent to Target’s claims-management company.
According to Decker, he filed a complaint in August 2016 with the U.S. Department of Justice. He says that an investigation was started around his complaint, but that it was dropped once Trump was elected and Jeff Sessions was appointed as U.S. Attorney General.
The current lawsuit was filed with Minnesota state court and specifically cites the violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which includes people with disabilities as a protected class. As the complaint points out, this case is also playing out “against the backdrop of a loud anti-gay animus that has resurfaced throughout the country amidst a continued quest for equal rights.”
“At Target, we want everyone who shops in our stores to feel valued and respected,” Target spokesperson Danielle Schumann wrote INTO in an email. “In 2015, a Target pharmacist misunderstood Target’s guidelines and mistakenly directed a guest to the in-store Target Clinic for a flu shot rather than administering it at the in-store pharmacy. We’ve been in close conversations with Mr. Decker for several years, we have apologized to him directly and will continue to work toward an amicable resolution for everyone involved.”
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