The city of Atlanta has agreed to pay a HIV-positive police officer $250 thousand in damages after the Atlanta Police Department denied him a job simply because of his HIV status.
Greg Nevins, an attorney at Lambda Legal’s Atlanta office who helped represent the officer, said he was glad the court reached a settlement decision that doesn’t play into misguided stigma surrounding HIV-positive individuals:
NEVINS: We are glad that the City of Atlanta has moved to right its wrong. We expect that the City, after paying out settlements in both [a previous LGBT-related case] and now this case, has learned to avoid the unnecessary costs of failing to treat LGBT people and those living with HIV fairly and appropriately.
The officer, going by the pseudonym “Richard Roe” to protect his privacy, applied for a position with the APD in 2006. However, after a round of medical screenings revealed Roe was HIV-positive, the ADP told him that his HIV status disqualified him from the position. Roe sued the city for workplace discrimination, but the court ruled in the city of Atlanta’s favor, saying Roe did not produce enough evidence to prove his HIV status will not present a direct threat to others while serving in the police force. Lambda Legal appealed and argued that, by considering Roe a “direct threat,” the city was discriminating against Roe.
Stigma surrounding HIV only helps maintain the HIV epidemic by hampering efforts for HIV advocacy and outreach. It’s important for cases like the one in Atlanta to help model a society that does not attach unfair stigma to HIV-positive individuals.