The ACLU of Florida filed this complaint letter on behalf of an HIV-positive job applicant who was denied employment as a Transportation Security Officer (baggage screener) for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) solely because of his HIV status. Relying on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits federal employment discrimination based on disability, including HIV status, the applicant alleges that the TSA also violated its own non-discrimination policy by refusing to hire him. The applicant, a military veteran with experience in national security, was confirmed by his treating physician as “capable of meeting the job requirements safely, efficiently, and effectively.” The TSA, however, effectively rejected the individual medical evaluation provided by the applicant’s physician, acting instead on its false assumption that the applicant’s HIV status made him vulnerable to illnesses that put him at risk working in an airport. Indeed, according to the applicant’s attorneys, TSA claimed to be rejecting his application “for his own good,” to protect him from the viruses and illnesses to which they wrongly assumed he was more susceptible. Arguably, the special form that TSA requires individuals with HIV to complete in order to be considered for a position, and their apparent reliance on CD4 counts and other lab test results to exclude potential employees, is itself violative of the Rehabilitation Act, as this information has no bearing on present ability to perform the essential functions of a baggage screener. The case illustrates the problem of continuing ignorance about HIV among even federal government employees; an “individualized assessment” does a plaintiff no good if the agency doing the assessment is ignorant about the facts and real risks of HIV infection and disease vulnerability.
The complaint initiates the TSA’s Equal Employment Opportunity informal complaint process and asks the TSA to rescind the applicant’s disqualification from employment, thereby bringing TSA’s practices into compliance with its own policies, federal law, and the federal Constitution.