An assistant manager at a Greenbelt Hair Cuttery who was fired this summer after being diagnosed with HIV has been reinstated and paid restitution by the barbershop chain's parent company, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Wednesday.

The ACLU claimed in a federal employment discrimination complaint earlier this month against Ratner Companies, the Hair Cuttery's parent firm, that Brandon Smith was wrongfully terminated in August after it was discovered he had the disease.

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Ratner initially denied the accusation, claiming a company document that attributed his firing to his HIV-positive status "inaccurately described the reason for his dismissal." Instead, Ratner cited "repeated inappropriate behavior," such as berating co-workers in front of clients, as the cause.

Smith argued that he was told the firing was solely because he had HIV. After an internal investigation, the company said its first response was based on "erroneous information."

Ratner, in a joint press release with the ACLU, said it "deeply regrets ... and sincerely apologizes" for Smith's dismissal. In addition to reinstating and paying restitution to Smith, the company has pledged to issue a new policy guide and work with a local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization for additional employee training, the company said.

"Ratner Companies does not condone or tolerate illegal workplace discrimination of any kind, and it is not the company's policy to terminate employees who are living with HIV or another disability," the company's CEO, Dennis Ratner, wrote.

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