HIV+ Works Overseas For US Company
Mar 24, 2005
Situation: I am an American citizen who works for a US company in Singapore. I joined the company in the US and transferred voluntarilly to Singapore under a local contract. While I am based out of Singapore for tax reasons, I live in Thailand. I have LTD insurance as well as full medical coverage through an expat policy with a US insurer. A precedent exists whereby US employees with family emergencies or illness have been relocated back to the US.
Complication: Since transferring to Singapore, I was diagnosed HIV+. Singapore does not allow HIV+ persons to renew their work permits. As such, I will need to disclose my condition to my employer prior to the renewal of my work permit in Singapore.
Question: In your judgment, how should I disclose in order to preserve my legal options, given the complexity of my case? I would like to continue working (as I enjoy my work and believe studies show that employed patients do better clinically) and so would consider a formal transfer to any other HIV friendly country (preferably Thailand) where my company has an office. If refused, would I qualify immediately for LTD with my employer? Can you recommend a good lawyer who specializes in such cases for US expats working overseas?
Response from Ms. Breuer
What a challenge! Singapore is indeed a difficult case.
You do not necessarily need to disclose your diagnosis. You can tell your employer that Singapore is refusing to renew your work permit for medical reasons and ask to be located out of Thailand. It's worth a try. Your employer probably will connect the dots, but you will not have formally disclosed your diagnosis.
Yes, there is clinical evidence that employed people with HIV do better clinically. If you enjoy your work and you're good at it, a half-bright employer should seek to find ways to keep you!
I encourage you to present this dilemma to an HR professional (preferably the director) at your corporate offices as a problem you'd like his/her help to solve. Use "we" language rather than "you" and "I" language. You could even support your dilemma presentation with a letter from your health care provider stating that you need the transfer as a reasonable accommodation of the functional limitation of not being able to renew in Singapore.
I know of no lawyer who works specifically on these cases, but would encourage you to contact the Thai Business Coalition on AIDS, where I have corresponded with several people. They are very knowledgeable and may be able to help you finesse this. I wish you well. You clearly have a good sense of the problem and of options to solve it.
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