Exposure-prone procedures & HIV-positive surgical techs.
Dec 12, 1997
I have an acquaintance who is HIV-1-positive & who was admitted to hospital
with Hepatitis A. While in hospital, his company's medical officer inappropriately
read his medical chart at nurses' station & discovered that tech was HIV-
positive. Upon return to work, tech told company officials that he was
HIV-pos. The Co. did not want him to continue eye enucleation (from cadavers)
procedures since they were worried that he might cut himself, bleed on
eye tissue & transmit HIV to eye recipients. He feels that he has been
seriously discriminated against under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He has been demoted to clerical work but wants his position as surg. tech
back. How reasonable are his employers' fears about him transmitting HIV?
Response from Ms. Breuer
Ufortunately, tech may not have an alternative to his new job situation. Under the Americans with disabilities act an employee may make such a transfer if the employee poses a "direct threat" to the safety of others. In this case, techs dealing with soft tissue (eyes) may pose a risk of transmission to those receiving tissue tranplants. Under the ADA, if the employer can prevent the direct threat through reasonable accomodation, then tech may be able to continue his work. Tech should contact the HIV service organization in his city/state and ask for a reference to an HIV legal specialist -- that specialist can provide tech with some specific assistance in dealing with the employer and in developing a strategy for requesting reasosnable accomodation.
On another note, the co-employer who reported techs HIV status, violated techs privacy. Tech should also discuss this issue with an HIV legal specialist and ask about state privacy laws.
-- David Grunwald
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