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Ethics in the workplace
Feb 20, 2004

Ms. Breuer, I am the one who wrote you about the legal implications of the manager who has knowledge of an employee with HIV having unprotected sex with another employee. The paper I am doing for my Ethics class was to be on "Ethical Decisions in the Workplace". My team and I thought HIV in the workplace would be broad enought to write a lengthy paper on. What we are finding is that the law is so specific when it comes to HIV in the workplace that it takes out all decision making. Which I know is good... But it makes my paper very difficult. Do you have any suggestions? We can not changes topics now. Please help!!! Thanks, Trisha Luna

Response from Ms. Breuer

Dear Trisha,

I had hoped you would write back. And I disagree with your team. There are numerous ethical decisions that the law does not determine concerning HIV and the workplace. Creativity is required! Here's one:

You have a valued long term employee whose performance has been affected by HIV disease. The accommodations this person needs make it impossible for the person to fulfill the essential functions of the present job. Do you:

a. terminate the person--with grounds--because s/he cannot do the full job anymore?

b. transfer the person--who has a life-threatening illness and needs the income from the job, and doesn't want to stop working--to a less demanding job?

c. if you choose b, do you reduce the person's salary commensurately to fit with salaries that others in the same job earn? Or do you honor the salary level the person has achieved and continue to pay it, recognizing that if/when the person goes out on disability leave, the salary at the time of departure will determine the eventual benefit? The ADA doesn't advise employers about salary at all.

That one isn't made up. I've worked with numerous employers who have faced that one. The law doesn't help one bit.

Nancy



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