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termininated due to "plant reorganization"
Feb 23, 2005

Here's the shorthand version of what happened. Two years ago while at work I had to be taken to the emergency room due to lightheadedness. I was admitted to the hopital with pneumonia. After blood work, I found I had AIDS. (T-cell count under 40). I was out of work on disability for approximately 4 months. When I returned, I started with a restricted work schedule of 4-6 hrs a day. As my health improved, I increased my work hours back to over a full time schedule. The position they placed me in on my return did not exist before I went out on disability. The position was created I assume as a place to "stick" me when I returned. Twice while in this position I made requests to be moved into different postions that would better utilize my talents. Nothing ever came of these requests. Two days ago, I was asked into a meeting with the corporate HR representative and was terminated because my "job position was being eliminated." I also know, but cannot prove that my immediate manager approached his manager and asked on three occasions that I be moved into a different position. I also know that a plant manager at a sister plant we have in the same city asked that I be allowed to fill an open position at that location. Both requests were denied. I've worked at this company for 17 years and am terrified over the thought of starting over. My question to you is bluntly, "Can they do this legally?"

Response from Ms. Breuer

Your question leaves out a key issue: can you prove that they know your HIV status? Eliminating a position is a daily constant in US business life, and is often used as a way to eliminate a problem person, which it doesn't seem you are. Do you have copies of your performance reviews? Are they really good? Do you have interest/energy to meet with a lawyer to ask about pursuing this legally? Can you prove that they know your status? When you have answers to these questions, you'll know how to move forward.

With your experience and skills, as terrifying as being downsized is, you probably will find that you don't have to "start over." Think about yourself as a highly marketable person with valuable skills, target the place you'd most like to work, and think about how you can improve your life by securing another job. Be sure to talk with a benefits counselor about COBRA and HIPAA to make sure that your insurance coverage is continuous.

Is there any reason for you not to approach the plant manager at the sister plant and apply directly to him? The company does not own your career. If that isn't possible, since he respects your work, you could ask him for a referral to a plant manager for a different company. Most people have a referral or two up their sleeves.

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