Am I Legally Required To Inform My Employer Of My HIV-Positive Status?

African American woman in office talking

Discrimination isn’t as overt as it once was during preceding generations, but discrimination is still a rampant problem affecting those residing within the United States. Millions of Americans are discriminated against for various reasons, such as race, country of origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. Unlike other identifiers, it is difficult to shield ones race or gender from the public, and we are not afforded special protections under the law simply because we are African-American or female. However, other identifiers such as an HIV-positive status does not present itself to the public the way that race and gender does.

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More than 1.2 million people residing in the United States are living with HIV, and almost 1 in 8 are unaware of their infection. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, particularly African-American men, are most seriously affected by HIV. The CDC conducted a study that determined that African-Americans face the most severe burden of HIV. African-Americans account for roughly 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010.

Many fear that their HIV-positive status, which is very personal in nature, may eventually become public knowledge. However, there are laws that have been enacted that grant certain rights regarding privacy and limitations of access to ones’ medical records, and places limits on the amount of information that one has to disclose about their HIV status to their employer and others.

Protection by ADA

Workplace discrimination based on an HIV-positive status is illegal. Individuals living with disabilities, such as HIV, find protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Individuals afflicted with HIV live with physical impairments that significantly limit their day-to-day activities, which is why the ADA protects them.

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The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for employment for those living with HIV. Employers may not base their decision to hire or fire an employee out of fear that the individual may become ill in the future as a result of the virus.

The decision to hire an individual must be based on the individual’s qualifications as they exist during the interview process. Additionally, employers may not avoid hiring a qualified individual because they are afraid of the potential for higher medical insurance costs or sick leave. Under the ADA, an employee may not be denied access to health insurance enrollment generally available to other employees in the company due to their HIV-positive status.

An employer is prohibited from singling out a prospective employee by requiring them to submit to a medical examination for the purpose of determining one’s HIV status prior to making a job offer. Even so, employers are prohibited from accessing those results without prior written consent from the employee.

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