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Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities as an HIV-Positive Person in the Workplace in the U.S.

October 26, 2015

Understanding Your Rights and Responsibilities as an HIV-Positive Person in the Workplace

Table of Contents


You can do a lot to prevent HIV discrimination at work by learning about your rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Here are answers to some of the questions most frequently asked by people living with HIV (HIV+) in relation to their work.

Frequent Workplace Questions

How do I request a reasonable accommodation?

If side effects or symptoms interfere with work, you might ask for changes in your working conditions that would allow you to continue doing a good job. Suppose your HIV drugs make you nauseated in the morning. Suppose your job could be done just as well if you came in an hour later and stayed an hour later. A change like that is called a "reasonable accommodation." If you feel you need a reasonable accommodation, it is your responsibility to ask your employer for one. There are several bits of information you will need to gather and provide:

How can I get to work on time when I am facing serious diarrhea for two hours after I get up in the morning?

The diarrhea may be an adjustment to new HIV drugs. Other than getting up two hours earlier, you could:

If I have been discriminated against, to whom do I complain?

Start with your own supervisor, who is responsible for stopping discriminatory behavior. If that does not yield satisfactory results, or if the discrimination is coming from your supervisor, go to HR or the person responsible for employee relations. If you still do not get satisfactory results, explain the situation to a company officer in writing. If you are still experiencing discrimination with no company action to resolve the issue, go to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is important to document and keep track of all your conversations, writings, and efforts.

What should I tell people if I am injured and bleeding and someone is trying to help me?

Hopefully, by now everyone is using universal precautions. Universal precautions are things people do to protect themselves from contact with other people's bodily fluids -- like wearing gloves. People administering first aid can respond to you safely if they use personal protective equipment (PPE, like gloves, goggles, or face shields) and assume that any worker might carry blood borne diseases. If you know your employer has not provided first aid training for a long time, try to encourage your employer to provide updated first aid training for the benefit of all workers.

Rights in the Workplace: Know the Law

Several laws cover your rights as a person living with HIV at work:

Taking Care of Yourself at Work

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