CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555;

Diane Daly, Ratner Companies, 202-365-5999;


The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU), Brandon Smith, and Ratner Companies - parent company of the Hair Cuttery chain of hair salons - are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement to resolve Mr. Smith's discrimination claim against Hair Cuttery that will both bring justice to Mr. Smith and strengthen the Companies' commitment to fair treatment of its clients and employees.


On October 9, 2014, the ACLU filed a formal Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, complaining that Mr. Smith had been wrongfully fired from his position as assistant manager at a Hair Cuttery in Greenbelt, Maryland, after it was discovered he had been diagnosed with HIV. Upon learning of the complaint, Ratner Companies moved swiftly to investigate and rectify the situation, agreeing to make appropriate restitution to Mr. Smith, including reinstatement, and issuance of policy guidance to ensure that employees of Ratner Companies understand that it is not the company's policy to terminate those who are living with HIV or another disability. In addition, the company has agreed to partner with a local LGBT organization to provide training for employees and managers.


Dennis Ratner, Founder and CEO of Ratner Companies, said: "Ratner Companies deeply regrets the dismissal of Mr. Smith from his employment with Hair Cuttery and sincerely apologizes for his termination, the company's initial responsive statement based on erroneous information, and any harm done to Mr. Smith. 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." 


Deborah Jeon, ACLU of Maryland Legal Director, said: "We are heartened by the quick action that Ratner Companies has taken to resolve the injustice suffered by Brandon Smith and to ensure that never again will an employee of Hair Cuttery or any other of the Companies' salons be terminated because they are living with HIV. It is our hope that this settlement sends a strong and clear message to other employers, so that unfounded fears and misconceptions no longer drive workplace discrimination against those with disabilities."