A federal lawsuit has been filed against a Texas nursing home after a former employee said he was fired for informing them about his HIV status.
Michael Janssen, a certified nursing assistant at Granite Mesa Health Center in Marble Falls, TX, took a position at the care facility expecting better pay. Instead, when he informed his employers about his HIV status, they demanded to know his viral load and white blood cell count. When he refused to provide that information, something protected by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he was terminated.
“As nurses living with HIV in general do not pose a risk of HIV transmission to their patients, a certified nursing assistant such as Michael – who performs basic nursing duties such as feeding, bathing, toileting and ambulatory care – certainly does not present any risk of transmission to the people for whom he cares,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Paul D. Castillo in a statement released earlier this week announcing the suit. “Granite Mesa caved in to the fear and ignorance surrounding HIV and unlawfully fired Michael. A health care facility should know better.”
Janssen similarly contested Granite Mesa’s claims. While he lost his job there, he was quickly able to find work at another health care facility; he informed him about his status and no issues have been reported.
“I posed no threat. In fact, right after being fired, I was rehired as a nursing assistant by my previous employer, another assisted living facility, even though I told them I was living with HIV,” he said. “My HIV status in no way interferes with my ability to do my job.”
The lawsuit was filed in conjunction with the Equal Opportunity Employment commission after the 2013 incident finally made it through their probable cause determination process in 2015.