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How to Tell Your Boss You Have HIV and Employment Rights

How to Tell Your Boss You Have HIV and Employment Rights


Bookmark this for your boss — or yourself — next time someone needs to be politely but firmly reminded of your right to work.

I’m letting you know you have an HIV-positive employee.

Most employees with HIV continue working their normal jobs with little change. But HIV is a disability covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which means you are required to provide that employee with reasonable accommodations if necessary for him or her to complete their job.

Some employers have tried to get around this by proving it's an "undue hardship" for your business, but do know that customer or coworker attitudes are not relevant factors in determining an undue hardship; the potential loss of customers or employees because an employee has HIV does not constitute an undue hardship to you.

Employers cannot fire an employee now because they fear the employee will become too ill to work in the future, or because they’re worried about higher medical insurance costs, workers’ compensation costs, or the threat of passing HIV to others.

It is medically established that HIV can only be transmitted by sexual contact with an infected individual, exposure to infected blood or blood products, or perinatally from an infected mother to infant during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding. HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact. Thus, there is little possibility that HIV could ever be transmitted in the workplace. 

You are legally forbidden from telling anyone else about your HIV-positive employee’s health status. Any medical information you have on that employee must not be put in their standard personnel file so as to protect that employee’s privacy.

Your employee may also be eligible for leave time under the Family and Medical Leave Act; if so, you must provide them with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

If you violate this law, you may receive a civil penalty from the U.S. Department of Justice of up to $75,000 for your first offense; after that it can go up to $150,000.

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Jacob Anderson-Minshall