California-based Nikko Briteramos is finally finding closure after a 2017 incident where he was denied service at the Los Angeles barbershop King of Kuts because he is HIV positive. On Tuesday, Lambda Legal announced that a judge had ruled Briteramos was entitled to $75,000 in damages, as well as attorney’s fees and litigation costs. The shop will also pay $4,600 in attorney's fees and $574.60 in litigation costs.
According to reports, Briteramos had frequented King of Kuts multiple times but in October 2017, one of the barbers told the shop’s owner that he was HIV positive. Briteramos then brought suit against the shop and its owner alleging that the acts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. The suit was never answered in court.
In January, Briteramos and his lawyer filed for a default judgement, which the shop also did not respond to. The lack of response resulted in judge Andre Birotte Jr.’s judgement.
“This judgement 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 to the dentist or get a haircut — is simply not acceptable,” Briteramos, who is a physical trainer, said in a statement. “Such discriminatory practices harken back to times not too distant during the period of American ‘Jim Crow’ and are equally unjust.” The case became the inciting moment for The Black AIDS Institute’s Cut the Stigma campaign, which aims to educate black businesses about misconceptions surrounding HIV. That campaign was launched in 2018.
“Nikko’s experience highlights how black people living with HIV are confronted with discrimination every day,” Raniyah Copeland of the Institute said in a statement. “But this judgement 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.”