Brief Fact Summary. Mauro (Plaintiff) claimed that he had been the victim of unlawful discrimination when Borgess Medical Center (Defendant) laid him off after finding out he was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An individual with an infectious disease who poses a significant risk of communicating an infectious disease to others in the workplace is not otherwise qualified to perform the job.
Such an inquiry is essential if § 504 is to achieve its goal of protecting handicapped individuals from deprivations based on prejudice, stereotypes, or unfounded fear, while giving appropriate weight to such legitimate concerns of grantees as avoiding exposing others to significant health and safety risks.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is an individual with an infectious disease who poses a significant risk of communicating an infectious disease to others in the workplace otherwise qualified to perform the job?
Held. (Gibson, J.)Â No.Â An individual with an infectious disease who poses a significant risk of communicating an infectious disease to others in the workplace is not otherwise qualified to perform the job.Â The “direct threat” standard applied in the ADA is based on the same standard as “significant risk” applied by the Rehabilitation Act.Â Courts defer to the reasonable medical judgments of public health officials in determining whether HIV-positive health care workers pose a significant risk or a direct threat in performing necessary functions of their jobs.Â The Center for Disease Control has released a report recommending health care institutions to determine which procedures are exposure-prone and recommends that HIV-infected health care workers not perform those functions.Â In this case, Plaintiff’s supervisor explained that a surgical technician may be asked to assist in the performance of a surgical procedure, though this is a rare occurrence.Â The district court did not err in determining that Plaintiff’s continued employment posed a direct threat to others in the workplace.Â Affirmed.
Discussion. In this case, the surgical worker had to qualify as a disabled person in order to rely on the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.Â Asymptomatic HIV was held to be an impairment because it significantly limited a major life function, that of reproduction.Â The Center for Disease Control’s guidelines have been criticized for not providing more specific information in reference to which activities are “exposure-prone.