Doe v. City of New York, 15 F.3d 264 (2d Cir. 1994)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

In this opinion, the Second Circuit holds that there is a constitutional right to confidentiality regarding HIV status. The plaintiff, Doe, had filed an action against his former employer, Delta Air Lines, Inc. ("Delta") with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights (the "Commission"). Doe and Delta settled the claim, and the resulting conciliation agreement contained a clause stating that Delta and the Commission would not disclose Doe's name or identifying information except as required by a court or agency. The Commission (and then-Commissioner Dennis DeLeon, currently Executive Director of the Latino Commission on AIDS) then issued a press release containing information about the conciliation agreement that would allow those who knew Doe to identify him as the individual described in the release. Doe brought a claim against the Commission under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Commission breached his constitutional right to privacy. The district court dismissed the claim. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that: (1) there is a constitutional right to confidentiality regarding medical information that is especially important in the context of HIV, given the stigma and discrimination those living with HIV face; (2) this right is waived when the information becomes a matter of public record; and (3) Doe's status did not become a matter of public of public record once he filed a claim with the Commission and entered into the conciliation agreement because the Commission has the discretion to determine whether or not to disclose information in conciliation agreements, presumably for "when the intensely personal nature of the discrimination complaint—such as the instance case—requires and deserves privacy in order to protect the rights of the complainants." Because Doe had a constitutionally protected right to the confidentiality of his HIV status, the Commission could not disclose the information without a substantial interest, an issue the court did not resolve.

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