Atlanta police sued by HIV-poz recruit
A man is suing the Atlanta Police Department, charging that he was secretly tested for HIV and dumped when the department discovered he is HIV-positive.
The man filed a federal lawsuit that also alleges that Atlanta police have a policy of not hiring people with HIV, though the department says that’s not true. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though, says internal police documents appear to contradict the department’s claim.
The man, who filed the lawsuit in federal court under the pseudonym Richard Roe, is accusing Atlanta Police Department of discrimination and violation of privacy and claims that the department has a policy of not hiring people who have HIV, according to court documents.
City officials deny that the department declined to hire Roe because of his HIV status. They said no such policy exists, though documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution appear to contradict that claim.
Alfred Elder, a director in the city’s Human Resources Department, said that Roe disqualified himself from the hiring process because he did not return calls from a police recruiter.
“We don’t discriminate,” Elder said. “He was not dismissed from the process because of his condition.”
But even if the city does have a policy barring HIV-positive people from being hired as police officers, it might be on solid legal footing, according to one attorney and law professor.
If the city did have a policy barring people with blood diseases from being hired as police officers, it would be on solid legal ground. That’s the opinion of Weyman Johnson, a labor and employment law attorney in Atlanta.
While federal law prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities — and HIV falls into that category — a 1987 Supreme Court decision likely gives the advantage to the Atlanta Police Department, said Johnson, who also teaches law at the University of Georgia.
In that case, a Florida schoolteacher was fired from her job because she had tuberculosis. The high court held that employers could use a disease as a reason not to employ someone if they could show the illness could be communicated to others through the course of the job.
The big question, Johnson said, is whether the city of Atlanta can prove HIV has been transferred to someone during the course of police work.
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