Lambda Legal announced Tuesday it will seek to join a federal discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against a Texas nursing facility that fired an employee after he disclosed he was living with HIV. Lambda Legal represented the employee, Michael Janssen, a certified nursing assistant, in his original complaint filed with the EEOC against Granite Mesa Health Center in Marble Falls, Texas. The EEOC issued a probable cause determination in August, 2015.
“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. “Granite Mesa caved in to the fear and ignorance surrounding HIV and unlawfully fired Michael. A health care facility should know better.”
Janssen worked at Granite Mesa for nearly a year when he was abruptly fired in September 2013, two days after he notified the Director of Nursing that he had tested positive for HIV, and one day after the Granite Mesa administrator demanded to know his viral load and CD4 white blood cell count in accordance, the administrator said, with so-called “company policy.” When Janssen asserted his right to see a copy of the policy the next day, he was fired.
The lawsuit charges that Granite Mesa violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), since he was suspended and, thereafter, fired even though he was able to perform the duties of his job and posed no threat to the health or safety of his patients. Granite Mesa also violated the ADA in demanding to know Janssen’s viral load and CD4 white blood cell count, information that had absolutely no bearing on his ability to do his job.
“I am completely capable of performing all my work responsibilities,” Janssen said. “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. My HIV status in no way interferes with my ability to do my job.”
The lawsuit is being handled by Lambda Legal attorneys Paul D. Castillo and Scott Schoettes.
The case is EEOC v. Granite Mesa Health Center. Read the Complaint in Intervention brief.