The Department of Justice is now suing the city of Clarksville for discrimination and for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Civil Rights Act, passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in schools and workplaces and protects their access to transport and public and private places.
“No qualified person should lose a hard-earned career opportunity because of misunderstood views about their disability that are not supported by medicine or science,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Department said in a Monday statement.
Kevin Baity, the mayor of Clarksville, a town of about 22,300 people across the Ohio River from Louisville, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Monday. He told the Associated Press that city leaders are working with federal prosecutors to “find an amicable solution.”
Discrimination against people with HIV – a virus that weakens the immune system and can be transmitted through blood, sexual contact, needles and childbirth – became illegal in 2008 as part of a change in the ADA.
But police departments have a history of violating the law. In 2012, the city of Atlanta reached a $ 250,000 settlement with a man who was denied a job because he was HIV-positive. New York City paid an HIV-positive man $ 50,000 in 2017 after he was denied a job with New York police. In 2020, a former Louisiana police officer won a $ 90,000 settlement from a sheriff’s office that denied him employment in 2012 after being told he had HIV.
The upcoming Clarksville police officer, who has not been identified in the trial, was open about his HIV status, court documents say. During his medical examination on October 26, 2015, the man said he was being treated, and the forensic pathologist noted that the man “took ‘anti-viral medication’, had ‘no long-term evidence of active disease’ from his doctor. HIV, and had no other notable health problems, ”the lawsuit states.
Despite these findings, the medical examiner suggested that the police chief did not hire the man because he did not meet “state-wide medical standards,” prosecutors said. The doctor added that the man’s HIV status “posed a significant risk of significant harm to health and safety” for other officers and the public, according to the trial.
Prosecutors allege that the forensic pathologist did not include evidence for these statements and showed no results as to how HIV would prevent the man in his work as a police officer.
On November 17, 2015, the Chief of Police recommended that the Clarksville Metropolitan Board of Fire, Police and Safety Commissioners withdraw the man’s job offer and remove him from his role as a reserve police officer. The man was notified the next day and told that he “did not pass the nationwide baseline test” required by the Indiana Public Retirement System, the lawsuit states.
But for the next 15 months, the man worked to get the city to reconsider the disqualification. At one point, someone from the city reportedly admitted to the man that he was qualified for the job. He was even added back to the police department’s job list, according to the trial. But the man was never hired and he eventually secured a job in another police department, prosecutors said.
“Clarksville’s actions delayed the start of the plaintiff’s career in law enforcement and caused him considerable emotional distress, including humiliation, depression and anxiety, as well as other financial and dignified injuries,” the lawsuit states.
The man filed a claim with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on November 20, 2015. The case is now being processed by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
“Every day we rely on law enforcers who put themselves in danger to keep us safe,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers in the southern district of Indiana. “Those who are qualified and seek to serve their communities should not be subjected to unlawful discrimination. People living with HIV have the right to the full protection of our anti-discrimination laws.”