AIDS/HIV

WHAT IS AIDS/HIV?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is transmitted through direct contact with a bodily fluid infected with HIV. This transmission can come in the form of sex, blood transfusions, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or childbirth. AIDS is a collection of infections resulting from damage to the immune system caused by HIV. HIV primarily infects vital cells in the human immune system. HIV infection leads to low levels of CD4+ T cells. When CD4+ T cell numbers decline below a critical level, the body is left more susceptible to infections. If untreated, eventually most HIV-infected individuals develop AIDS. The late stages of the condition leave individuals prone to infections and even tumors. Some treatments exist, but, as of yet, there are no cures.

WAYS IN WHICH YOU MIGHT BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST FOR HAVING AIDS/HIV:

  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not allow you to work, for fear that you will infect a co-worker
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work

HOW THE LAW PROTECTS YOU IF YOU HAVE AIDS/HIV

Under the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act (FVRA), an employee may not be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination on the basis of a handicap. For example, an individual cannot be fired, denied a job, or demoted because of a disability. Under FVRA, AIDS qualifies as a protected handicap.

Individuals with AIDS will not qualify for protection under FVRA if that individual poses a threat to himself or to others. However, because casual contact with a person with AIDS almost certainly does not pose a threat to others, individuals with AIDS should qualify for the protection of FVRA. Unfortunately, while FVRA provides protection for individuals discriminated against because they have AIDS, this coverage applies only where employers are the federal government, federal contractors, or the recipients of federal funds.

In California, FEHA also provides protection for individuals discriminated on the basis of his or her AIDS status. In Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. Raytheon, the court determined that AIDS is a physical handicap under FEHA, deserving of protection from discrimination. An employer may not argue that an employee with AIDS poses a danger to others, because medical evidence shows casual contact in the workplace will not transfer the AIDS virus.

Further Information