Rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS
Under the Human Rights Law
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Press Release: State Division of Human Rights and State Department of Health, AIDS Institute Join Forces to Fight Discrimination Against People Living with HIV/AIDS
Protections For People Living With HIV/AIDS Under The New York State Human Rights Law.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Are people with HIV/AIDS protected under the Law?
People who are HIV+, or who have AIDS, are protected under the disability provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law.
How is a disability defined?
The Human Rights Law defines a disability as:
“a physical, mental or medical impairment which prevents the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted diagnostic techniques, or
a record such an impairment, or
a condition regarded by others as such an impairment.”
Both permanent and temporary disabilities are covered under our Law.
What does the Law cover?
The Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination against people who are HIV+ or who have AIDS in employment, housing, places of public accommodation, credit transactions, and certain non-sectarian educational institutions.
The Human Rights Law also prohibits employers and landlords from retaliating against those who file complaints of discrimination.
The New York State Human Rights Law is substantially broader than the Americans with Disabilities Act
People with disabilities should know that the New York State Human Rights Law offers substantially broader protection than its federal counterpart, the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, for many New Yorkers who are HIV+ or have AIDS, our Law is the only law that provides protection.
Under the ADA, a disability must substantially impair a major life activity. Under the State Law, a disability needs only to impair a normal bodily function or be detectable by medically accepted tests. Unlike the ADA, New York State also covers most temporary disabilities. As a result, the term “reasonable accommodation” has a more expansive meaning. This increases the degree to which employers must accommodate an employee with HIV or AIDS-related illness. Similarly, the State Law offers heightened protections in other areas, such as housing. For example, a person who is HIV+ or has AIDS, and is diagnosed with the related illness of depression may have a companion animal at home if deemed medically necessary as a reasonable accommodation for the disability, even if the landlord has a “no pet” policy.
You go to a new dentist for the first time. Before treatment, you disclose that you are HIV+. The dentist then tells you he is not taking new patients. You believe the dentist does not want to treat you due to your HIV status. What are your rights?
Dentists, doctors, and other medical offices are considered places of public accommodation. It is unlawful for a place of public accommodation to deny a person the benefits and privileges of the public accommodation based upon a disability, which includes HIV status.
You’ve been in your job for three years and always received positive reviews and raises. You decide to disclose your HIV status to your boss and begin receiving negative reviews and are put on probation. You believe these negative reviews are a result of your disclosure of your HIV status and report the situation to your employer’s personnel office. Two weeks later you are laid off. Is this unlawful?
The Human Rights Law prohibits employers from retaliating against those who file a complaint of discrimination. If you believe you were laid off for reporting your supervisor, you can file a complaint with the Division.
You move into a new apartment and then disclose to your landlord that you are HIV+. You begin to experience harassment and the landlord makes derogatory statements about your HIV status. Is this unlawful?
Harassment and other discrimination in housing based upon HIV status is against the Law. You may file a complaint against the landlord.
Employers are prohibited under the NYSHRL from making any inquiry in connection with prospective employment that expresses direct or indirect limitations or discrimination on the basis of disability. This prohibition would include inquiries regarding medications and HIV status. If you were made to disclose your HIV status to a prospective employer and believe you did not get the job because of that, you may file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights.
You are employed as customer service specialist and are undergoing treatment for HIV. Your regularly scheduled work hours are from 9am – 5pm. Your doctor prescribes medical treatment for you that takes place in the morning. You ask your employer to modify your work schedule as a reasonable accommodation so that you may work from 10am to 6pm so that you can get your treatment. What are your rights?
Employees with HIV or any other disability have a right to be reasonably accommodated by their employer so that they can do their job. Modified work schedules that do not result in an undue hardship on your employer are an example of such a reasonable accommodation. If an employer refuses to provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your disability, you may file a complaint with the NYS Division of Human Rights.
STEPS TO TAKE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS:
In the workplace...
Before requesting a reasonable accommodation from your employer, it is helpful to have all the medical documentation to substantiate the need for the reasonable accommodation.
Be aware that an employer will not be found to have denied a reasonable accommodation unless you provide notice of the disability and the employer is afforded the opportunity to engage in an interactive dialogue if your request for an accommodation can be granted.
Some examples of possible reasonable accommodations are:
- A modified work schedule,
- Reassignment of the non-essential functions of the jobs,
- Acquisition or modifications of equipment, and
- Provision of an accessible worksite.
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT
If you believe that you have been discriminated against based upon disability, as an HIV+ individual, you can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. A complaint must be filed with the Division within one year of the alleged discriminatory act.
For more information or to file a complaint, you may contact the regional office nearest to your home or workplace, or download the complaint form here.