A man who was fired one day after telling his supervisor he was HIV positive
may bring a claim foremployment discrimination and impermissible medical inquiry claims under the amended
Americans with Disabilities Act. In
Horgan v. Simmons, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois determined
HIV falls within the new definition of “disability” as set
forth under the amendments.
Not all illnesses or injuries are covered by the ADA. The ADA only protects
“qualified individuals.” Qualified individuals are those with
any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially
limits a major life activity.
In Horgan, the Illinois District Court evaluated whether HIV constitutes
a covered disability. Writing for the court, Judge Ruben Castillo held
that it is, reasoning that HIV falls within the category of being an “episodic
or in remission” that “substantially limits a major life activity
when active.” The court further noted that the operation of ‘major
bodily functions,’ including an individual’s immune system
are considered “major life activities” for the purpose of
defining an actual disability under the ADA.
In addition to determining whether HIV was a covered disability, the court
also reviewed whether facts exists showing that the president of the company
improperly inquired into Horgan’s medical status after he told Horgan
he was “really worried about him” and needed to know if “there
was something medical going on.”
After persistent questioning, Horgan revealed his prognosis, but indicated
that it did not affect his ability to work and be productive. However,
the company president continued to ask questions about his condition.
Horgan was told that he “should go on vacation” and “leave
the plant immediately.” The president also sent out an email stating
effective immediately Horgan was no longer a member of the company.
Under the ADA employers are
prohibited from asking whether an employee has a disability or inquiring into the
“nature or severity of such disability” unless the questions
are job-related and consistent with business necessity.” In this
situation, Horgan was both pressured to reveal his condition and discuss
the nature and severity after he indicated that his condition did not
affect his work.
As a result, the court determined that the plaintiff easily cleared the
procedural hurdles in order to withstand a motion to dismiss – he
gave the company adequate notice of the claims and the grounds on which
they rest and the allegations suggest Horgan has a right to relief.
When you’re injured or suffer from a major illness or disability,
some employers may assume you are unfit to perform a task or have biases
against your work abilities. In some cases, their actions may be considered
discriminatory and in violation of the ADA. Other state and federal laws
may be involved as well, including short or long term disability, the
Family and Medical Leave Act, and Georgia Workers’ Compensation.
If you have a serious injury or disability and have questions concerning
your employment rights, please contact
The Buckley Law Firm, LLC, a Georgia employment law firm dedicated to protecting employee’s rights.