Associated Press - February 1, 2012
ATLANTA -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday granted a
new hearing to a 40-year-old man who claimed the Atlanta Police
Department rejected his job application because he has HIV.
The ruling was a victory for gay rights advocates and the health
groups who had closely watched the case, which was brought in
2010 by a man using the pseudonym Richard Roe.
Among other findings, the three-judge panel of the 11th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals said in the ruling that the city lulled
Roe into believing he didn't need to prove his HIV was
"non-serious." It ordered the judge who dismissed the lawsuit to
take another look at that issue and others prompted by the
The ruling was no surprise, as the panel expressed skepticism
about the city's arguments during oral arguments last week, and
one judge suggested the court had little choice but to send the
case back to the federal judge.
Roe said in an interview last week that he was a former
investigator with the city of Los Angeles who discovered he had
HIV in 1997. He said the virus didn't hinder his ability to
perform his duties, and that he didn't think it would be a
problem when he applied to join Atlanta's police force in 2006.
He passed a series of exams, but hit a snag when a blood test
revealed he had the virus that causes AIDS. The doctor didn't do
any more tests, court records say, and recommended to the city
that he have "no physical contact or involvement with
individuals." Roe said the doctor told him the city wouldn't hire
him because he had the virus.
City attorneys didn't immediately respond to requests for
comments. At the hearing, attorneys said the city has no blanket
policy against hiring officers with HIV and that several were on
the force. City attorney Robert Godfrey said Atlanta follows the
advice of physicians who screen candidates, and in this case, the
doctor advised the department to limit Roe's interaction with the
Lawyers for Roe, who was represented by gay rights group Lambda
Legal, said there was no evidence that he posed a threat to the
health and safety of others. They said Atlanta's stance
perpetuated myths about HIV that have persisted for three
decades, and that medical advances have made the virus a chronic,
but manageable, condition.
Scott Schoettes of Lambda Legal said he plans to use the hearing
to show how Atlanta's refusal to hire his client was
"discriminatory and illegal."
"The city of Atlanta admitted that there are already HIV-positive
police officers serving on the force," he said. "Now they need to
explain why our client should be treated any differently."