HIV, Employment Discrimination, and the Law
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability. The ADA, which covers employers of 15 or more people, applies to employment decisions at all stages. Court decisions have found that an individual with even asymptomatic HIV is protected under this law.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) addresses some of the barriers to healthcare facing people with HIV, as well as other vulnerable populations. HIPAA gives people with group coverage new protections from discriminatory treatment, makes it easier for small groups (such as businesses with a small number of employees) to obtain and keep health insurance coverage, and gives those losing/leaving group coverage new options for obtaining individual coverage.
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) applies to private-sector employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the work site. Eligible employees may take leave for serious medical conditions or to provide care for an immediate family member with a serious medical condition, including HIV/AIDS. Eligible employees are entitled to a total of 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA) allows employees to continue their health insurance coverage at their own expense for a period of time after their employment ends. For most employees ceasing work for health reasons, the period of time to which benefits may be extended ranges from 18 to 36 months.
For more information, see CDC’s Business Responds to AIDS/Labor Responds to AIDS: HIV is Still at Work.
Filing a Charge of Employment Discrimination
Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In addition, an individual, an organization, or an agency may file a charge on behalf of another person in order to protect the aggrieved person's identity.
For more information, see EEOC’s The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability.
- DOJ – Eradicating Discrimination Against People Living with HIV/AIDS (Justice Blog)
- DOJ – Fighting Discrimination Against People with HIV/AIDS
- DOJ – Protecting the Rights of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS
- DOJ – Questions and Answers: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Persons with HIV/AIDS
- DOL – Employment and Living with HIV/AIDS
- EEOC – Helping Patients with HIV Infection Who Need Accommodations at Work
- EEOC – Living with HIV Infection: Your Legal Rights in the Workplace Under the ADA
- EEOC – What You Should Know about HIV/AIDS and Employment Discrimination
- HHS, Office for Civil Rights – Protecting the Civil Rights and Health Information Privacy Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS
Last revised: 01/12/2016