Hiv positive employee threating to sue over termination, but there are two sides to the story
Sep 18, 2002
My wife is a retail manager and recently fired her assistant manager, Who is HIV+, for theft. He was an openly gay man, and told my wife about 3 months ago he was positive. My wife told her other assistant he was Positive. She felt her other manager had a right to know, due to the fact that the positive individual has had a surgery that somtimes makes his mouth bleed and allows his blood to be exposed. Now he is threating to sue for discrimination and breech of confidientiality, but he himself has made subltle hints that he is infected. He was not discriminated against, he and my wife were friends for over a year and she actually got him his management position. Her rebuttle is she fired him for theft not discrimination. She has been aware of his medical condition for 3 months. We are now aware after reading your forum on confidintiallity about the laws dealing with it, but he is using the law designed to help HIV+ individuals in the work place for his own misguided use. My wife is very nervous and hurt. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Response from Ms. Breuer
The bitter truth is that your wife did violate his privacy when she disclosed his HIV status. How I wish that managers were required to take HIV in the workplace seminars, so that they could avoid such messes! She was nervous about her co-manager because she lacked enough information.
He may indeed have a case against the company concerning the disclosure, but he would have difficulty pinning the termination on the disclosure because he was fired for cause.
The best protection any employer has in this kind of case is a great paper trail about the events leading up to the termination. Documentation. If or when the case comes to trial, it will be messy because of the unauthorized disclosure, but it seems to me that the employee is blowing smoke to distract attention from the theft. Theft is grounds for immediate dismissal, HIV or none.
Please help your wife to understand that even the "occasional bleeding" was not grounds for violating confidentiality. The information that people at work have the right to is information about how to protect themselves when blood is present. Unless the other person had direct, intimate contact with the man's blood (blood to blood, or to mouth), there was no risk of transmission.
He is not so much using the law for his own misguided purposes(that's pretty hard to do) as he is using the existence of the law regarding privacy of medical information to distract her attention from the theft. Retail employees who steal quickly become ex-employees. Period. What's going on in their blood systems is secondary to what's missing from their ethical systems.
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