Court Ruling Allows Lawsuit Alleging Disability Discrimination Based on HIV-Status To Proceed
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that three California men could sue American Airlines for disability discrimination after the airline rescinded job offers as flight attendants because the men did not disclose that they were HIV-positive, the Oakland Tribune reports (Richman, Oakland Tribune, 3/5). The ruling overturns a 2003 ruling dismissing the case (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/5).
The three men in 1998 and 1999 received job offers from the airline, contingent on the results of medical examinations and background checks. After blood tests showed that the men are HIV-positive, American Airlines withdrew the job offers on the basis that the men failed to disclose accurate information in medical history questionnaires.
The lawsuit alleges that the airline violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act with the requirement that the plaintiffs provide their medical information before background checks were completed and jobs were offered. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that American Airlines conducted the blood tests without the consent of the plaintiffs in violation of their privacy rights under the California constitution.
In a 22-page decision, Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher wrote, "American cannot require applicants to disclose personal medical information -- and penalize them for not doing so -- before it assures them that they have successfully passed through all non-medical stages of the hiring process."
He added that "by consenting to pre-employment blood tests, the appellants did not consent to any and all medical tests that American wished to run on the blood samples" (Oakland Tribune, 3/5).
Todd Schneider, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the decision "will protect the privacy of all people with hidden disabilities."
An attorney for American was not available for comment, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/5).