This employment discrimination complaint neatly lays out an effective challenge to an employer’s discharge of an HIV-positive employee on the unfounded basis that the employee poses a direct threat to co-workers and those around him. The fired employee alleges that his termination, and the employer’s failure to provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow him to keep working, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Saavedra, a qualified auto glass installer with 25 years of experience, was fired solely on the basis of his HIV-positive status. Upon his termination, defendant provided Saavedra with a written Personnel Action Form explaining that the reason for his termination was that his HIV-positive status posed a direct threat to other employees. With no evidence that Saavedra was unable to perform the essential functions of his job without accommodation or that his HIV status posed a direct threat to those around him, Saavedra’s termination was the product of defendants’ erroneous assumptions about HIV transmission, unsupported fears, and stereotypes. This type of discrimination, based on medically unsound beliefs about the danger that a person with HIV presents, is precisely the type of prejudice that the ADA was designed to combat.
CHLP fights stigma and discrimination at the intersection of HIV, race, health status, disability, class, sexuality and gender identity and expression, with a focus on criminal and public health systems. As part of this work, we support movement building that amplifies the power of individuals and communities to mobilize for change rooted in racial, gender and economic justice. We do this through legal advocacy, high-impact policy initiatives, and creation of cross-issue partnerships, networks, and resources.