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Last week, an HIV-positive Georgia man argued to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that he should be allowed to proceed with his discrimination claim against the Atlanta Police Department in a federal district court.
The man, using the name "Richard Roe" claims that a doctor who conducted his pre-employment medical exam as part of his application said that he "could not be employed in a position in which he had any contact with the public" because he was HIV-positive, and that he had "failed" his medical exam, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When Roe wasn't offered the job, he sued.
Atlanta argued that Roe could not show that he was qualified to perform the job because an HIV-positive cop would present a "direct threat" to the health and safety of others. A district court granted summary judgment to Atlanta PD last year.
While Atlanta PD claims that it does not have a formal policy against hiring HIV-positive officers, it argued at summary judgment that Roe could not show that he was qualified to perform the job because an HIV-positive cop would present a "direct threat" to the health and safety of others.
Lambda Legal, which is representing Roe in his discrimination claim, told the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals last week that Atlanta PD should bear the burden of justifying its decision to not hire Roe.
"Not only does science not support what the APD is doing, but the fact is that people living with HIV are already serving as police officers all across the country. The City of Atlanta has to make decisions based on facts rather than bias. We asked the Court to recognize that our client presented more than enough evidence of his being able to do the job safely," Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal's HIV Project Director, said in a statement.
Roe's odds of prevailing in his HIV-positive cop discrimination claim look good. During arguments, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge J.L. Edmondson asked, "How can we not remand this?" reports the Journal-Constitution. Additionally, the Atlanta-based court has made several notable pro-employee decisions lately, including a December decision in which the court ruled that an employer may not discriminate against a transgender employee.
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