Justice Cared-For: Northeastern Pennsylvania residential care facility settles employment discrimination case with HIV-positive CNA

A northeastern Pennsylvania residential care facility has agreed to pay $30,000 to settle an employment discrimination claim on behalf of a certified nursing assistant who was fired shortly after his employer learned he is living with HIV.

The AIDS Law Project filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in September 2016 alleging that the facility violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

After working at the residential care facility for eight months, our client was offered a promotion to a management position. The promotion offer was contained in a letter that described our client as “a valued asset to our organization and paramount to our community’s success.”

Six days after receiving a promotion offer, he disclosed that he and his partner were recently diagnosed with HIV to explain why he was unable to work his overnight shift. Five days after disclosing his status, he was terminated.

Prior to disclosing his HIV status, the CNA client received no complaints about his work performance. His work was frequently praised by his supervisors, he was assigned to train new coworkers, and on several occasions he was encouraged to apply for a promotion.

In the spring of 2016, our client’s partner became sick and had to be hospitalized. In the hospital, his partner found out he had HIV. The client then got tested, and he too was HIV positive.

Within hours of disclosing his HIV status, our client was contacted by the owner of the facility and instructed to attend a meeting the following day. At that meeting, he was placed on a 30-day probationary period for alleged performance issues. Five days later, he was terminated, effective immediately. The employer alleged that he had committed a minor time-keeping error.

We are happy to report he is already hard at work at another facility, providing quality and compassionate care.

For more than 30 years, infection control protocols, known as universal precautions, have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to create safe workplaces for patients and providers. These precautions assume that all blood and other bodily fluids are potentially infectious and health care providers should: routinely use barriers (such as gloves and/or goggles) when anticipating contact with blood or bodily fluids; immediately wash hands and other skin surfaces after contact with blood or bodily fluids; and carefully handle and dispose of sharp instruments during and after use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has not been a documented case of HIV transmission from an infected healthcare worker in the US since 1990.