HIV Discrimination In The Workplace
With the advent of new medicines and treatments, thankfully, HIV and AIDS is now treatable, allowing patients to live long, complete lives. However, that should not take away from the fact that HIV is still a recognized legal disability, and as such, employers need to be careful not to discriminate in the workplace against employees who may have HIV.
The Americans With Disabilities Act
HIV is protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The act prevents discriminating against someone that, because of an illness or disease, is substantially limited in one or more life activities.
For the purposes of HIV, those life activities don’t have to be physical; as HIV substantially affects and impacts the body’s immune system, HUV is a covered illness or disability under the act, even if the employee is otherwise strong, healthy, and seemingly able-bodied.
The ADA doesn’t just protect those with HIV—it protects against discrimination against people who may be exposed to HIV. So, for example, if an employee lived with someone who had HIV, you could not discriminate against that employee because you feel that they may have been exposed to HIV, or may risk carrying the disease.
Like any other protected disability, in order for an employee to sue for HIV discrimination, the employee has to show that he or she was otherwise qualified to do the job (or, with accommodations related to the disability, that the employee would be qualified to do the job).
For those with HIV, accommodations may include things like the employer providing additional sick time or sick leave, and perhaps work from home arrangements for periods when the employee may be sick—or when the employee may be exposed to an illness, such as when a co-worker may be sick.
Many of the medications that HIV patients use may have adverse side effects. Employees who need downtime to deal with medicines or their side effects, need to be given such rest.
Many HIV patients are robust and physically strong, but that isn’t always the case. Your business cannot require an HIV sufferer who may be weaker, to perform tasks that he or she cannot physically perform.
Discriminating Against Clients and Customers
Discrimination doesn’t just extend to your employees—it also extends to your customers or clients. It is illegal to discriminate against customers with HIV, even if you “fear” other customers (or you) catching the disease. People with HIV rarely, if ever, constitute a threat to public health, and thus, there is almost no instance where your business will be justified in refusing service to someone with HIV.
The ADA doesn’t just apply to the workplace either. It is illegal to discriminate against those with HIV in the areas of housing or rental units, or even discrimination in the lending of money for any reason.
Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig today to understand employment laws that could affect your business.