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Fired after telling boss HIV positive
Jun 29, 2013

What can I do? My brother told his boss that he was HIV positive the next day his boss fired him. No write ups, good bonuses & nice raises during his employment of 3 years( not sure on the employment years it might be 4 years)Do you think he needs to contact a lawyer? Employer has denied unemployment benefits too.

Response from Ms. Douaihy

Dear Writer,

Based on your telling of the facts, your brother may have a claim of employment discrimination because of his disability (HIV status qualifies in this context). Treating a disabled employee differently, terminating them summarily or creating a hostile work environment solely because of the fact of their disability is generally considered unlawful under federal law and state law.

If an employee discloses his status and is treated unfairly as a response, he generally has remedies under state and/or local anti-discrimination law. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act is applicable where an employer has 15 or more employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") is also a good first step as the EEOC enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. Also check out the official websites for your city, county and state to learn what kinds of anti-discrimination protections exist in your home town in the event that your brother's former employer is not covered by the ADA.

Additionally, HIV status has no bearing on one's eligibility for an unemployment insurance benefit ("UIB") entitlement. States differ on administration of unemployment insurance but generally UIB benefits are available to individuals separated from employment due to no fault of their own. It is not clear from your question whether your brother's former employer or your state's Department of Labor is responsible for rejecting his claim. If his initial claim for UIB was disputed by his former employer and he is otherwise eligible, he should appeal the denial to your state's Department of Labor. If he feels that his former employer denied his claim solely due to his HIV status he should file a complaint of discrimination with your state Department of Human Rights (or equivalent state agency that enforces state anti-discrimination law). Bottom line, he should consult with an attorney asap as statutes of limitations apply in both scenarios.

I wish you and your brother the very best of luck.



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