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Former HIV-Positive Employee Appeals Dismissal of Discrimination Lawsuit Against Belle Bonfils Memorial Blood Center

September 19, 2005

A former employee of Belle Bonfils Memorial Blood Center in Denver who claims the center discriminated against him because of his HIV-positive status, is appealing a lower court's 2004 dismissal of his lawsuit, the Denver Post reports. John Couture on Thursday told the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver that he is pursuing the case to prevent other HIV-positive health care workers from being discriminated against (Caldwell, Denver Post, 9/16). Couture sued Belle Bonfils in December 2002, alleging he was hired by the center in August 2001 as a mobile phlebotomist and was first asked and later forced to take a different job because he told his supervisors that he is HIV-positive. Couture said that after he disclosed his status, he was pressured to take a laboratory technician job because the center was worried that people might fear donating blood if they knew that Couture is HIV-positive. After he was told he could not work as a mobile phlebotomist, Couture worked as a laboratory technician for a week, then he resigned. The lawsuit contends that Belle Bonfils violated a contract and discriminated against Couture under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/16/02). U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed the case in 2004, saying Couture was not discriminated against just because he did not like his new job. The decision of the three-judge appeals panel, which is expected in the next few months, could define how HIV status can affect employment conditions, Couture's lawyers said (Denver Post, 9/16).

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