Published March, 2005

Leonel v. American Airlines, 400 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2005)

American Airlines denied jobs to three HIV-positive flight attendant applicants, both because their HIV status meant they didn't meet American's medical requirements, and because all three failed to disclose their HIV status on the pre-employment medical questionnaire forms. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the applicants can take their case to court even though they omitted information about their HIV-positive status. American had made tentative job offers in 1998 and 1999 to the three men pending medical and background checks. Blood tests found the men were HIV-positive, a condition they declined to list on a medical history form in their applications, and the job offers were rescinded. In their lawsuit against American, based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and the California constitutional right to privacy, the men claimed that the blood tests violated their right to privacy. A lower court dismissed their cases, but the Ninth Circuit ruled that the men had a right to a hearing on their claims. The court found that American did not justify its blood testing before it had completed its background checks. It also said the applicants' right to privacy may have been violated as the job applicants did not consent to all testing of their blood and may have been misled about the nature of the testing. The court stated that "many hidden medical conditions, like HIV, make individuals vulnerable to discrimination once revealed," and that the current law "allow[s] applicants to keep these conditions private until the last stage of the hiring process."