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Nashville PD Must Pay HIV-Positive Man Denied a Job

Nashivlle skyline by Isaac Loredo Vargas for Pexels

The city's police department will always be forced to update outdated hiring policies.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is ponying up money — and rewriting outdated hiring policies — after denying an HIV-positive man a job as a first responder.

The unnamed Black man was refused a job with the MNPD in 2020, prompting him to sue the department last year. At the time of the man applying for a position, the MNPD followed hiring practices set forth by the United States Army. The Army previously barred people living with HIV from enlisting, but no longer discharges military members due to HIV status or considers HIV in deployment or commission decisions. This change was due to a successful legal ruling against the practice in 2022. A federal judge in Virginia also ruled the military could not discharge a person living with HIV if they are virally suppressed and asymptomatic. On top of those legal wins, voters in Davidson County, where Nashville is located, amended their charter tying work with the MNPD to U.S. military criteria.

Nashville will not only compensate John Doe for an unspecified amount, but rewrite the city’s Civil Service Medical Examiner’s policies to make clear HIV is not a disqualifying condition for employment as a police officer or first responder.

“I feel vindicated,” John Doe, a 45-year-old decorated civil servant, said in a statement. “All I wanted to do was serve my state and protect its communities, so I’m glad the city is now recognizing that living with HIV is not an obstacle to performing those critical duties. On the contrary, thanks to medical advances, HIV is now treated like other lifelong conditions. We can live healthy lives, be active members of society, and serve as first responders, police officers, parents, and any other job without any problem.”

The case against Nashville was led by the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery and Merchant Gould P.C., as well as the nonprofit organization Lambda Legal, which has challenged HIV discrimination in numerous lawsuits.

“We are pleased with this settlement agreement that makes clear in Nashville Metropolitan government policies that living with HIV is not reason enough to deny someone a job. Medicine has progressed by leaps and bounds, allowing people living with HIV to live normal lives and there are no reasons why they cannot perform any job as anyone else today. We hope this settlement serves as a testament to the work we need to continue to do to remove stigma and discrimination and update laws to reflect modern science,” Jose Abrigo, Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director and attorney in the case, said in a statement.

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