Discrimination and HIV
Table of Contents
Many HIV+ people encounter legal problems associated with their health status. Occasionally HIV+ people face discrimination in employment, housing, and medical care. Fortunately, there are numerous legal protections from these types of discrimination.
HIV+ people are protected from employment discrimination by federal law and in many cases by state and local laws too. Under these laws, if an HIV+ person is qualified to do the job and can perform the essential functions of the job, an employer cannot reject, terminate, demote, or deny promotions to an HIV+ employee or job applicant because of his or her HIV status. Additionally, an employer cannot harass or mistreat an HIV+ employee because of prejudice or fears of the employer, supervisor, co-workers, or customers.
The Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most important federal protection from employment discrimination for HIV+ people. This law states that employers with at least 15 employees cannot fire, demote, or refuse to hire a person on account of his or her disability or the perception that he or she has a disability. Under the law, HIV+ persons are considered disabled. In 2008, the ADA was amended to broaden its scope and protections, making it easier for people with HIV to show that they are disabled. In addition, employers can no longer take mitigating measures (e.g., the positive effects of medication) into consideration in determining whether someone is disabled; in other words, your ability to cope with HIV-related symptoms does not affect your status as disabled within the ADA.
Employment Rights Under the ADA
The following rights may apply to employees or job applicants working for employers with 15 or more employees:
Reasonable Accomodation Under the ADA
A reasonable accommodation is a change in workplace or routine that enables a disabled person to do his or her job. A person with a disability may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation if he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job as long as the accommodation is made. For example, reasonable accommodation for an HIV+ person might be more flexible hours or time off to visit the doctor.
Local and State Law
Even if you work for an employer with less than 15 employees, you may be protected against discrimination by state and local laws. Most states and cities have laws prohibiting employment discrimination against HIV+ persons. Often these laws apply to all employers in the relevant state or city, without regard to the number of employees. For more information about state and local anti-discrimination laws, contact a legal services organization in your community.
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