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Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights


Do you suspect you are being harassed or discriminated against by your employers or coworkers because you are HIV-positive? There are several steps you should take before pursuing legal remedies or formal internal complaints. ' Document every incident of suspected discrimination. 'The hardest part in fighting discrimination is proving it,' says Tamara Lange, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's AIDS Project. Keep written communications, e-mails, memos, and any other documents that will bolster your case. Write down notes from personal conversations, including when the talks took place, what was said, and who was present. ' Talk with an attorney, advises Caryn Lubetsky, executive director of Miami Beach, Fla.'s HIV Education and Law Project. 'A lot of times I might be able to make a phone call and work something out,' she says. 'Employers are often reasonable in trying to make things work.' Jonathan Givner, an attorney with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund's AIDS Project agrees: 'Lawsuits are not always the first or best option to remedy discrimination.' ' Don't wait too long to confront discrimination, particularly if you have been demoted or fired. 'Act on it quickly,' advises Deborah Weimer, a professor of law and director of the AIDS Legal Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law. There may be a statute of limitations on seeking legal remedies, she says, 'usually six months or 180 days, which passes amazingly quickly.' ' Contact groups like Lambda or the ACLU to discuss your situation. Information about Lambda Legal can be found online or by calling one of the agencies regional offices: in New York City, (212) 809-8585; in Los Angeles, (213) 382-7600; in Chicago, (312) 663-4413; in Atlanta, (404) 897-1880; in Dallas, (214) 219-8585. Information about the ACLU can be found online or by calling the agency's New York headquarters at (212) 549-2500. The ACLU also operates affiliates in each state; check local telephone listings for contact information.

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