Horgan v. Simmons, 704 F. Supp. 2d 814 (N.D. Ill. 2010)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

This is one of the first cases to apply the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to an HIV discrimination case. The district court held that, with the clarification of Congressional intent in the ADA Amendments Act and the explicit inclusion of the functioning of the immune system as a major life activity, the plaintiff's ADA claims should survive a motion to dismiss. This marks a substantial change in the landscape of HIV-related ADA claims as they may no longer be impeded by a requirement that an individual plaintiff demonstrate that HIV is a disability in that person's case.

The plaintiff worked as a sales manager for Morgan Services beginning in February of 2001. He knew he was HIV positive for about ten years, but only disclosed this to his close friends. In January 2008 Morgan Services promoted him to general manager of the Chicago facility where he worked under the president of the company, Timothy Simmons.

In 2009 Simmons asked to meet with the plaintiff for what he called a "social visit". During the visit, the plaintiff alleged that Simmons demanded to know if there was something physical or emotional affecting the plaintiff, and continued to press until the plaintiff revealed his HIV status. Simmons responded by questioning whether or not the plaintiff could properly perform his job while HIV positive and stated that "…a General Manager needs to be respected by the employees and have the ability to lead," and indicated that he "did not know how [the plaintiff] could lead if the employees knew about his condition."

Simmons ended the meeting by telling the plaintiff that he should leave the plant immediately and go on vacation. The next day, the plaintiff received an e-mail indicating that he was no longer employed at Morgan.

The plaintiff sued claiming he was fired because of his HIV status in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiff further alleged that Simmons' questioning of his health was an impermissible medical inquiry in violation of the ADA and a violation of his state-protected privacy rights.

The court held, consistent with EEOC v. Lee's Log Cabin, 546 F.3d 438, 442 (7th Cir. 2008), that to succeed on an ADA claim the plaintiff must prove that he: (1) is disabled; (2) he "is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation" and (3) because of his disability, he suffered an adverse employment action. The plaintiff's employers argued that HIV was not a disability since it was not a "limitation of a major life activity" for the plaintiff. The court looked to the ADA Amendment Act of 2008 which broadened the scope of protection afforded by the ADA and determined that language encompassed the protection of HIV positive individuals.

With regards to the claim of an impermissible medical inquiry, which is also barred under the ADA, the court ruled that the plaintiff had pled sufficient facts to state a potential claim. The court held, however, that the facts supporting plaintiff's state privacy law claims were not sufficient to meet the level of intrusion required and should be dismissed.