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job accomodating sick time?
Mar 12, 1998

I am HIV+ and have a fulltime job.My employer is unaware of my status as i am pretty healthy.If in the future i start needing more time off due to illness or drug reactions,should i tell my employer of my status? Am I then protected from being fired due to absenteeism from illness,and just how much time off am i legally allowed?

Response from Ms. Breuer

If you start needing time off due to illness, you need to protect yourself by letting your employer know that you have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but you have no obligation to disclose the diagnosis. Disclosure at work is complex, and shouldn't be done without consulting an attorney who specializes in HIV issues. YOur local AIDS service organization may have an attorney who volunteers time to people with HIV. If not, they probably have a referral to one with a reduced fee. It's a much better investment than turning over months of your life to fighting a discrimination lawsuit.

The amount of time you can use for illness is not defined by the ADA. What it does say is that you must be able to fulfill all of the essential functions of your job. If you need time to adjust medication or deal with an illness so that you can return to work full time, look into taking advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which stipulates up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year for purposes like that. A benefits counselor at an AIDS service organization can usually help you with the FMLA. You can also disclose to your human resources professional at work and remind that person of her/his duty to keep the conversation confidential before you start asking questions about how to manage your disability at work, but if your workplace has not done HIV education, even that can be risky.

The ADA and other anti-discrimination laws protect you, in most cases, only after the discrimination has taken place. Please prevent it by talking first with an HIV-savvy attorney! And please work with an HIV-savvy doc so that you can hold on to the good health you now enjoy, okay?

Please write again if you have more questions.

Nancy Breuer



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