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HIV Disclosure in the Workplace
Oct 7, 1998

I'm a recently diagnosed HIV patient. I've been apprehensive about disclosing my status to my supervisor. One, is it illegal to fire someone because of a HIV positive status? And secondly, can an employer find some other way, to fire that wouldn't be associated with the status report. For example, watching closing every aspect of one's job and looking for a loophole in performance, attendance, etc...thank you

Response from Ms. Breuer

There is no reason for you to disclose your HIV status to your supervisor. Your apprehensions are based on good common sense. Yes, it is illegal to fire someone based on the person's HIV status, but of course a supervisor who really wanted to get rid of you could claim poor performance or attendance problems. So you are wise to remain silent.

The only reason to talk to anyone at work about your disability--which HIV is, in the eyes of the law--would be if you needed a reasonable accommodation to be able to continue to do your job, something like a change in your hours to accommodate fatigue, or more frequent breaks to be able to take medication with food. Even then, you would not have to disclose your diagnosis, only that you have a disability. If you need a reasonable accommodation, do not approach your supervisor, who probably does not have training in how to negotiate a reasonable accommodation. Approach the person who does handle this in your company: the human resources director, or employee health, or the company nurse.

Enjoy your job, and keep your HIV status confidential. That means do not tell co-workers either, because your information could get back to your supervisor that way. You should control whether or not your supervisor knows, not someone else.

Nancy Breuer



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