Many people who are HIV positive often complain they are discriminated against at work and also face harassment from employers and/or co-workers. While the law cannot do anything about the disease, it does give the individual certain protections to help him or her keep his job.
These rights are derived from The Americans with Disabilities Act. There are additional rights also under The Family and Medical Leave Act and different medical insurance laws.
While the law does not protect an afflicted employee from being fired for poor performance or another legitimate reason, the medical condition may entitle an employee to claim certain legal rights to help him or her to do the job more easily. Here are a few employment rights that those living and working with HIV may have.
You Can Keep Your Condition Private
In most situations, you can keep your HIV status private. Generally, employers cannot ask you if you have an HIV infection or any other medical condition. If answering non-medical questions would cause you to reveal your HIV status, you can refuse to answer, but the employer would have the right to reject employment or a desired benefit on the basis of incomplete information.
You Can Ask for Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodations are changes you need in the way you work because of your infection. These include altered work schedules and breaks, supervisory method changes, ergonomic furniture, work from home, unpaid time off, and more. At the same time, you cannot demand the employer change the essential functions of your role, let you work less for the same salary or allow you to do work of a lesser quality.
An HIV Infection Is No Grounds for Termination of Employment
Employers cannot discriminate against workers simply on the basis of having an HIV infection. This includes termination of work, denial of a job or promotion. or asking an employee to go on leave. Basically, the employer cannot resort to stereotypes or myths about HIV to decide about your employment.
Harassment of HIV Infected Persons at Work Is Prohibited
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits harassment of people with disabilities. If you are being harassed by your co-workers because of your HIV infection, you should inform your employer. The law imposes a duty on employers to provide a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment, even by co-workers.
What to Do if Your Rights Are Being Violated
If you think your rights are being violated, you can file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Your complaint will be investigated and a determination made as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination has occurred. If there is reasonable cause, the EEOC will take action to seek relief on your behalf.
If no reasonable cause is found, you may still bring a civil action in state or federal court. There is a 180 day statute of limitation for filing such cases (300 days if your employer is covered by another state/local employment discrimination law such as is present in Oklahoma), so it is best to start the process early.
If you are being discriminated against at work for being HIV positive, or for any other legally protected reason, contact Armstrong (918) 582-2500 or toll free at (800) 722-8880, or visit us online to schedule a free consultation.