The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday will hear the case of of a 37-year-old man who says the city of Atlanta called him a "direct threat" to others and he was denied a job with the Atlanta Police Department because he is HIV-positive.
Lambda Legal is representing the man, identified as "Richard Roe" in court documents to protect his identity.
But Lambda Legal argues that on summary judgment of the lower court’s case, the city argued Roe “could not show he was qualified to perform the job because it believed that a police officer with HIV presents a ‘direct threat’ to the health and safety of others.”
“There was no good reason to deny our client this opportunity. People living with HIV are serving as police officers all across the country; they are involved in every kind of work and participate in all walks of life,” said Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director, in a statement.
“If the promise of equal opportunity contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act is to be fulfilled, employers’ misconceptions and outdated policies need to be challenged,” he added.
The plaintiff is a Georgia man who applied to be an Atlanta Police officer in 2006. According to Lambda Legal, during a pre-employment medical exam the APD learned Roe is HIV-positive and he was told by the doctor that examined him that his status disqualified him from being an Atlanta police officer.
When Roe was not hired, he filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Northern Georgia against the city of Atlanta, accusing the city of “discrimination based on federal and state law as well as for violating the American with Disabilities Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act.”
According to Lambda Legal, the city of Atlanta argued during litigation that it did not consider HIV a reason to not hire someone as a police officer and that the city had no policy against hiring people with HIV.
The District Court then granted summary judgment in the city’s favor for not providing enough evidence to show he would not be a threat to the safety of others as a police officer, according to Lambda Legal.
“The City of Atlanta is talking out of both sides of its mouth. They claim that having HIV doesn’t prevent someone from becoming a police officer; then they walk into court and say that it does,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, in a statement.
“It was unfair for the district court to allow the Atlanta Police Department to get away with this, especially when the available science supports our client,” Nevins added.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is based in Atlanta. Lambda Legal had recent success when it argued the case of transgender woman Vandy Beth Glenn who was wrongfully fired from her job as a legislative editor with the Georgia General Assembly because she is transgender.