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HIV positive in the food service industry
Jun 8, 2001

I am the Human Resources Manager for a food service franchise owner in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One of our managers in one of the restaurants was just diagnosed as HIV positive. This situation is new to me. I need to know everything regarding HIV positive and the food service industry. HELP!

Response from Ms. Breuer

Good news: you already know a lot of what you need to know. You already have policies in place concerning handwashing and care of wounds so that germs, blood and food do not come into contact. And because the person is a manager, not a cook, the person is likely to have face to face customer contact, not food contact. Both would be safe, of course, but often the food contact causes people more anxiety. Your manager does not pose any threat to the health of your employees or your customers.

Now to the more difficult part. Disclosure of a food service employee's HIV status has created panic in some settings and damaged food businesses. There is no reason for anyone else in the store or in town to know the manager's HIV status, and every reason for them not to. No one has a "right to know." You have a legal obligation to keep the diagnosis confidential. That means: 1. you don't talk about it with ANYONE except the employee, and then in strict privacy. 2. if you have the diagnosis or anything about it in writing, that document has to be accessible to you and only you--not even an assistant.

Otherwise, you run your business normally. You evaluate the manager based on performance, not based on diagnosis.

At you can read a Manager's Kit from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will give you more information about your rights and obligations. Links to numerous other resources will be at the same site.

HIV disclosure during probationary period
Mississippi state regulations on HIV employees

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