HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS, is a life-long disease that compromises the body’s immune system, making it difficult to fight-off illnesses and other diseases. HIV infection leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) when the CD4 cells, also known as T Cells, of the immune system are destroyed to the point where the body cannot fight off infections and diseases (CDC, 2015). AIDS in the final stage of HIV infection.
HIV/AIDS and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Is HIV/AIDS considered a disability under the ADA?
The ADA does not contain a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Instead, the ADA has a general definition of disability that each person must meet on a case by case basis (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011). A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011).
However, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the individualized assessment of virtually all people with HIV/AIDS will result in a determination of disability under the ADA; given its inherent nature, HIV/AIDS will almost always be found to substantially limit the major life activity of immune function (EEOC Regulations . . . , 2011).
Accommodating Employees with HIV/AIDS
Note: People with HIV/AIDS may develop some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with HIV/AIDS will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following is only a sample of the possibilities available. Numerous other accommodation solutions may exist.
Questions to Consider:
- What limitations is the employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect the employee and the employee’s job performance?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine possible accommodations?
- Has the employee been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- Do supervisory personnel and employees need training?
Situations and Solutions:
A secretary with HIV could only go to the HIV clinic during work hours.
The employer provided the employee with a flexible work schedule, so that she could go to the clinic for medical attention and counseling. The employee made up the hours throughout the week by staying later and by coming in early.
A computer operator was experiencing weight loss and gastrointestinal limitations as a result of having HIV.
She was provided with an ergonomic chair with extra padding and began to change seating positions often. This prevented her from getting sores from sitting in one position for prolonged periods of time. Employee’s workstation was also moved closer to a restroom to provide her better access. Total cost to move employee to another workstation was virtually nothing.
A pharmacist was having difficulties standing for eight hours a day on a tile floor.
This employee was responsible for filling prescriptions for medication. The work area was carpeted using extra padding, which assisted in reducing fatigue and a sit/stand/lean stool was purchased to assist employee when standing. Employee was also permitted to take frequent rest breaks throughout the day. This was possible since the employee cut his lunch hour down to 30 minutes, which provided him with 30 minutes that could be used at other times of the day whenever a break was needed. Also another pharmacist was available to cover his breaks.
A machine operator was experiencing difficulties remembering the steps involved in changing a part on his machine.
The employer provided the employee with a step by-step checklist and directions explaining how to do this.
An accountant was experiencing eye sensitivity to fluorescent light in her office.
As a result, she was unable to clearly view her computer screen or written materials due to glare. The accommodation solutions were to lower the wattage in the overhead lights, provide task lighting, and a computer screen glare guard.