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October 21, 2008

Lawsuit: Atlanta Cops Violated HIV-Related Privacy

A man who applied to become a police officer in 2006 sued the Atlanta police department, claiming they tested him for HIV without his consent and then wouldn’t hire him after learning his HIV-positive status, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

According to court documents, the defendant—who filed the lawsuit under pseudonym Richard Roe—accused the department of discrimination and violation of privacy and claimed the department has a policy of not hiring people who are HIV positive.

Alfred Elder, a director of the city’s human resources department, said that Roe disqualified himself from the hiring process by not returning calls from the police recruiter. But documents concerning Roe’s case sent by the city to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that any blood-borne diseases including HIV can disqualify a police candidate because of the hand-to-hand combat involved in law enforcement. Elder had no comment on that statement.

If the city did have a policy against people with blood-borne illnesses being hired, legally it would be in the clear, according to the article. Although federal law prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities—a category that includes HIV—a 1987 Supreme Court decision likely gives the advantage to the Atlanta Police Department, said Weyman Johnson, a labor and employment law attorney in Atlanta.

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