Lambda Legal filed this complaint on behalf of a federal employee, Taylor, whom the Department of State rejected as a Foreign Service Officer because of his HIV positive status. Although Taylor’s HIV was asymptomatic and he passed the written and oral exams required of Foreign Service Officers, the Department of State employed a blanket policy prohibiting HIV positive individuals from becoming Foreign Service Officers. The complaint alleges that the policy violates sections 501 and 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act by failing to take reasonable affirmative steps to employ individuals with HIV who can perform the essential functions of a job and discriminating against otherwise qualified individuals on the basis of their HIV status. It provides a useful outline for bringing an HIV-related employment discrimination claim against a federal employer under the Rehabilitation Act, and contains useful language on the need for employers to rely on the qualifications of individuals rather than outdated stereotypes about people living with HIV.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently held that the Department of State was not entitled to summary judgment on the Rehabilitation Act defenses that it raised.