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HIV/AIDS Employment Discrimination and State and Local Law


Thousands of American workers are infected with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV). Because fear and misinformation continue to surround AIDS and HIV, these workers are at risk for unfair and discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Consequently, laws have been passed or refined to protect workers with AIDS or HIV. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, for example, AIDS and HIV are considered disabilities subject to protection. In addition to the ADA, a number of states and localities have passed specific laws to counteract employment discrimination against persons with AIDS or HIV. This article summarizes the general provisions of some of these state and local laws.

State and Local Laws

States that provide some type of special protection for employees or applicants with AIDS or HIV include the following:

    • California
    • Florida
    • Hawaii
    • Iowa
    • Massachusetts
    • Missouri
    • North Carolina
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    • Washington
    • Wisconsin

Pursuant to California law, for example, employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital status, sex, as well as physical handicap and medical condition, sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Under Iowa law, HIV and AIDS are specifically defined as constituting disabilities. Some states, like Washington and Wisconsin, have banned the general use of HIV or AIDS testing in employment-related decisions. Under Rhode Island law, for example, HIV or AIDS testing may only be used in the employment context to demonstrate a clear and present danger of HIV transmission to others.

In addition to state laws, employers are also subject to many local laws protecting HIV positive employees or applicants from workplace discrimination. The following cities, for example, have ordinances or executive orders restricting the use of HIV testing in the employment arena or forbidding AIDS-based employment discrimination:

    • San Francisco
    • Denver
    • Detroit
    • Austin
    • Toledo
    • Boston
    • Philadelphia

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.


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