The Atlanta City Council today approved a settlement of $250,000 to an HIV positive man who sued the city when he was allegedly denied a job with the city's police department because of his HIV status.
Richard Roe, the plaintiff's pseudonym used throughout the lawsuit, first applied to the Atlanta Police Department in early 2006, but was denied employment due to his HIV status, his lawsuit claimed. According to Lambda Legal, who represented Roe: "During a pre-employment medical exam, the APD learned that Roe was HIV-positive, and the doctor informed Roe that his HIV status disqualified him from becoming a police officer with the APD."
The check for the full amount was made to Richard Roe and The Koval Firm, owned by Steve Koval, a gay attorney who has represented Roe from the beginning before getting assistance from Lamba Legal.
Roe sued the city when he wasn't hired. City lawyers first maintained that Atlanta did not have a policy against hiring police officers with HIV, then later claimed that his HIV status presented a "direct threat" to others.
"Actions speak louder than words," said Koval in a previous statement.
Atlanta City Council approves $250,000 settlement to HIV positive man denied police job
“Throughout this litigation, the city claimed it had not discriminated against our client based on his HIV status, but this settlement shows otherwise. Let’s hope the City takes the additional steps necessary to ensure it doesn’t ever again have to spend taxpayer dollars to defend its discriminatory conduct,” Koval added.
The case was an additional black eye for the Atlanta Police Department as it also dealt with federal lawsuits stemming from the 2010 unconstitutional raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar. The city has paid nearly $3 million in settlements and investigation costs after patrons argued their rights were violated when they were searched without probable cause.
Lambda Legal attorney Greg Nevins has said he hoped that with the two cases combined, the city has learned a costly lesson about anti-gay and anti-HIV discrimination. Nevins is senior supervising staff attorney at Lambda’s Atlanta-based southern regional office and served as co-counsel on the Eagle cases.
“We are glad that the city of Atlanta has moved to right its wrong,” Nevins said via a prior press release about the case.
“We expect that the city, after paying out settlements in both the Eagle raid case and now this case, has learned to avoid the unnecessary costs of failing to treat LGBT people and those living with HIV fairly and appropriately.”
The settlement amount was agreed to some weeks ago but it takes full council approval to become official. The vote to approve the settlement comes a day after Atlanta Pride in which LGBT officers of the Atlanta Police Department had a large presence in the parade and their own booth in the fest’s market place handing out rainbow colored wrist bands and recruiting new officers.