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New Employee Handbook Issue
Sep 18, 2001

My dilema:

I work for a small employee owned company that employs exactly 25 individuals. I have been poz since 1999. I have only disclosed my hiv status to our president of our company who is our benefits coordinator. I have never let the words "hiv" or "aids" slip past my lips at work.

I recently found out that our employee handbook had been re-written and that a page concerning "hiv" and "aids" is included in the forefront of our handbook. Could this be considered as my employeer disclosing my status to all employees? I already know that certain individuals in my company have been informed and is this against the law?

Here is what is going to be stated in the document: (company name) is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Consistent with this commitment, the Company will treat AIDS and/or ARC the same as other illnesses in terms of all our employee policies and benefits, such as group health and life insurance, disability leaves of absence, and other disability benefits.

Based on the overwhelming weight of available medical and scientific opinion, including statements from the Surgeon General of the United States, and the U.S. Public Health Service and Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence that such diseases are casually transmitted in ordinary social or occupational settings or circumstances. Therefore, subject to changes in available medical information and/or specific conditions involving the potential for transmission of these diseases, it is the policy of the Company that employees with such diseases or any of their related conditions may continue to work as long as they are otherwise able, with any reasonable accommodation required by law, to perform the essential functions of their positions. Employees who are affected by AIDS and/or ARC or any other life threatening illness will be treated with compassion and understanding in dealing with their personal crises. Co workers will be expected not to refuse to work or withhold their services for fear of contracting such diseases by working with such an affected employee and not to harass or otherwise discriminate against such a person.

Response from Ms. Breuer

You are lucky. Your employer is smart to put the new item into the handbook. Not only are they not discriminating against you or blowing your cover--they're giving notice that anyone who does discriminate against you or anyone in your situation is violating company policy! And they did it without pointing any fingers at one person. Thank your lucky stars. Not every employee is so fortunate.

As for disclosing to others within the company, I don't have much detail go to on. If the "others" are people who are higher on the chain of command than the person you told, that's not unusual, although it's not always the smartest thing to do. They all represent the company; in the eyes of the law, they are all bound to keep medical information confidential.

What's the risk?

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