Published September, 2017

Settlement Agreement between the United States of America and Aurora Health Care under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (July 2017)

This settlement agreement, dated July 21, 2017, between the United States and Aurora Health Care is the result of two complaints filed with the United States Department of Justice alleging discrimination on the basis of HIV status in violation of title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Title III). Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation. Thus, for example, a health care provider cannot refer a patient living with HIV (PLHIV) to another provider solely because of their HIV status. Any such referral must be based on the patient’s seeking treatment outside the expertise of the original provider.

The first complaint alleges an orthopedic surgeon refused to perform a hip replacement surgery because of the complainant’s positive HIV status. The second complaint alleges an urologist provided a non-discriminatory justification for delaying a catheter removal while also expressing concern about the transmission risk posed, despite assurances that standard precautions—the medically accepted approach to infection control that treats all human blood and certain human body fluids as if they were known to be infectious for HIV and other blood borne pathogens—should eliminate any risk of transmission. The catheter was removed at another facility a week later.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Aurora must pay $30,000 to the complainant requiring hip surgery and $15,000 to the spouse of the now deceased complainant who required catheter removal, as well as a $15,000 penalty to the United States. Aurora has also reviewed and revised, with approval from the United States, all existing non-discrimination policies and infectious disease policies; expanded its Civil Rights Officer position to better coordinate handling of any future discrimination complaints; and will require, as a condition of employment for all Aurora employees, completion of annual compliance training revised to include instruction on civil rights, protected classes, HIV/AIDS, and discrimination in general.