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HIV+ Elementary Teacher
Jan 29, 2002

I left my last school teaching job on disability retirement as result of HIV+ status and a doctor giving me 6 months to 1 year to live in January of 1994. Do I have a right to return to work now? Can they deny me my job back? What if any rights do I have as a person with a disability? Does the ADA cover me? Thanks for your answers

Response from Ms. Breuer

First of all, congratulations on beating the predictions. I assume you have protease inhibitors to thank for the fact that you're still here to ask the question! Keep up the good work.

Now: Returning to work is not a "right." It is, happily, one of your options. If you wish to apply for a teaching job and your physician supports your working full time, you join the ranks of applicants for available jobs. Obviously your experience gives you a leg up, but the ADA doesn't give you any kind of ticket. It simply prevents a potential employer from discriminating against you because of your HIV.

I recommend not disclosing to a potential employer. Where have you been since 1994? You've been dealing with a serious illness in the family. You don't have to mention that it was yours. If you're well enough to work, you're well enough to work. Keep the focus on your skills and experience. As a person with a disability, you have the right to be evaluated, interviewed, hired, promoted and fired just like everyone else, without their using your disability as an excuse for the way they do any of those things. That's it.

By the way, don't let anyone tell you that you "owe" your employer a disclosure of your HIV status because you work with children. You're not planning on exchanging blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk with children, I presume, so you pose no threat to their health.

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