EEOC Releases Guidance on HIV

Last week on World AIDS Day, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued two documents explaining the protections the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) extends to HIV-infected individuals.

Instead of writing this guidance for employers, the EEOC wrote one document for HIV-infected individuals and the other for their health care providers.

In Living with HIV Infection: Your Legal Rights in the Workplace Under the ADA, the EEOC explains the ADA’s prohibition against workplace discrimination and harassment and the employer’s obligation to explore reasonable accommodation when HIV affects an individual’s ability to perform essential job functions. The EEOC discusses the individual’s right to privacy, but clarifies that individuals need to discuss their condition with their employers as part of the reasonable accommodation process.

In Helping Patients with HIV Infection Who Need Accommodation at Work, the EEOC attempts to explain to health care providers what the ADA is, what it does, the circumstances under which their patients might receive workplace accommodations, and what types of accommodations might be available for HIV-infected individuals. The EEOC lists common reasonable accommodations as:

  • Altered break and work schedules;
  • Changes in supervisory methods;
  • Accommodations for visual impairments;
  • Ergonomic office furniture;
  • Unpaid time off;
  • Permission to work from home; and
  • Reassignment to a vacant position if the individual can no longer do his or her job due to HIV.

The EEOC also discusses how the health care provider can help his or her patient receive accommodation, stressing the importance of disclosing an individual’s need for accommodation before a problem arises at work. Finally, the EEOC discusses under what circumstances an employer may inquire about whether the individual HIV status poses a safety risk.

While these documents are not written for employers, they are instructive. In FYI 2014, the EEOC resolved almost 200 charges of discrimination based on HIV status and collected more than $825,000 in remedies. Contact MSEC with your questions about accommodating employees with HIV.