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Being Discreet in the workplace?
Nov 9, 2000

I have been HIV+ for ten years now. I started feeling sick in June of 98.The side of my face started breaking out in warts caused by the virus. My cells dropped considerably and my viral load was high. I took a leave of absence from work for a couple months due to starting my anti-virals and adjusting to a whole new life. My disability through work wouldn't pay a thing. They said I was capable of working. I appealed but they dragged it out only to deny me.

I went back to work (Transferring to another store) and have been back a month or two. I can't seem to go at least 2 weeks without calling in sick. The people around me see this. I was sick at work yesterday. I had three hours left but knew I couldn't make it through the day. They said I couldn't go home. They were too shorthanded. I told her that I would try to make it through. I had to go a step higher to be able to leave pissing the other person off,and had to explain to someone I wasn't comfortable with why I had to go home. I am a very discreet person with my disease. I was finishing up what I was doing and another associate asked me if I was going home sick. I told him yes. His reply was "I told them all, I told them you probably swallowed." I'm openly gay in this store so naturally they think I'm living with AIDS. Now I am uncomfortable in the new store and know I should transfer but I don't want to go through all this again. I can't afford to quit and go looking for another job. Any advice? Thank you for this site!

Response from Ms. Gabriel

The stress of your situation at work is probably not doing any favors to your immune system. Your first course of action should be to speak with your healthcare provider. Tell her/him what your job duties are and talk about any limitations your current health status has on them. If there are limitations, have the doctor put them in writing. If you prefer to keep your HIV status private (this *is* your right) make sure the note from the doctor does not include your diagnosis. Next, go to your Human Resources professional (NOT your supervisor) and identify yourself as a person with a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and show the note from your doctor. The next step is deciding what accommodations could be made so that you can do your job. Your supervisor may be involved in this process -- remember -- you do not have to disclose your medical diagnosis.

In your meeting with the HR department you may also want to mention the discriminatory and inappropriate remarks you have endured. If you can do your job you have the right to a safe working environment. I wish you courage and strength in this process.

Lynne Gabriel



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