HIV-positive nursing assistant settles employment-discrimination claim


 Contact: Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq. ▪ Executive Director
Phone: (215) 587-9377 ▪ Fax: (215) 587-9902

HIV-positive nursing assistant settles
employment-discrimination claim

PHILADELPHIA (March 23, 2012) — A national healthcare-staffing firm must change its ways and must pay $22,000 to an HIV-positive nursing assistant, under the terms of an employment-discrimination settlement announced today by the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

The nonprofit Philadelphia-based law firm and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had sued Pittsburgh-based Capital Healthcare Solutions for rescinding an employment offer to plaintiff D.B. of central Pennsylvania after learning he has HIV.

The company offered D.B. a job in September 2010, but rescinded its offer less than a month later because of his HIV status. In response to a question on a required medical-exam form asking if the applicant had any communicable diseases, D.B.’s doctor noted that he was HIV-positive but could perform the job.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of a real or even a perceived disability, including HIV.

As part of the settlement, Capital Healthcare Solutions agrees to not engage in discriminatory employment practices on the basis of disability, real or perceived; to provide mandatory employee trainings, and to develop internal policies and procedures to prevent future discrimination.

Capital Healthcare Solutions also agrees to pay $22,000 to D.B. — $20,000 as compensatory and punitive damages and $2,000 as back pay — although it has not admitted wrongdoing or liability.

“I’m happy the company finally settled this,” D.B. said. “They’re a health-care company. They should know about HIV and how it is transmitted, not through casual contact. They should have known better.”

Despite the federal and state legal protections for people with HIV in the workplace, occupational-licensing requirements – such as those governing certified nursing assistants – have been a source of confusion to prospective employers and others. This confusion places HIV-positive applicants, seeking jobs for which state licensing is required, at great risk of discrimination.

In Pennsylvania, occupational-licensing requirements prohibit the employment of anyone with an “infectious, contagious and communicable disease,” although those terms are used inconsistently and imprecisely. Seeking to prevent discrimination in the 50 professions and occupations governed by occupational-licensing requirements, the AIDS Law Project has worked with the Pennsylvania Department of State to clarify the requirements. As a result of the AIDS Law Project’s efforts, the Department of State issued a clarification in January 2011, specifically excluding HIV as an infectious, communicable or contagious disease, “because it is not transmitted through casual contact or through the usual practice of the profession or occupation for which a license is required.”

A copy of the consent decree can be found by clicking here and the Pennsylvania Department of State Occupational Licensing Statement is available by clicking here.

D.B. was represented by Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq., and Matt Mossman (J.D. expected 2012) of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and by Lisa H. Hernandez, Senior Trial Attorney of the EEOC.

Capital Healthcare Solutions was represented by Dinsmore & Shohl LLP.

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The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania is a nonprofit, public- interest law firm, serving the legal needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS and their families. Founded in 1988, and now with a staff of 12, the organization has helped more than 32,000 people free of charge. The agency also educates the public about AIDS-related legal issues, and works at local, state and national levels to achieve fair laws and policies.