Published March, 2000

Holiday v. City of Chattanooga, 206 F.3d 637 (6th Cir. 2000)

This case involves a challenge to a city police department’s withdrawal of an offer for a police officer position to an applicant when it discovered the applicant was HIV-positive. The applicant, Holiday, brought claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The Sixth Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of the City, rejecting the City’s argument that Holiday was not qualified for the position due to his HIV status. Rather than rely on generalized conclusions about the affect HIV could have on job performance, the court noted that “the employer must conduct an individualized inquiry into the individual’s actual medical condition, and the impact, if any, the condition might have on the individual’s ability to perform the job in question.” The City’s physician offered no evidence that there had been any attempt to determine whether Holiday experienced any symptoms of physical weakness; rather, the physician’s report cited only Holiday’s HIV status for the conclusion that Holiday was not strong enough for police work. In contrast, Holiday provided evidence that he was fit to perform the job and served as a police officer without any limitations in another location after being rejected by the City. The opinion contains excellent language on the purpose of the ADA as prohibiting employment decisions based on fear, prejudice, ignorance, or mythologies, and the individualized inquiry that must be made when determining if a person is “otherwise qualified” to perform a job’s essential duties regardless of a disability. Although the City initially contended that they would “put other employees and the public at risk by hiring [Holiday],” it conceded on appeal that he posed no direct threat to the health and safety of others, and disavowed its earlier assertions to the contrary.