MIAMI — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agreed this week to review its medical guidelines for applicants with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV. The agreement is part of a settlement between the TSA and the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Florida. In August 2009, the ACLU filed an administrative complaint on behalf of an Air Force veteran who was refused a job as a transportation security officer (TSO) with the TSA because he is HIV-positive.
"Not only does this discrimination perpetuate misconceived notions about people with HIV, it could create situations where HIV-positive people are forced to hide their status in order to keep their job or seek employment," said Michael Lamarre, who was refused a job after he disclosed his HIV status for a physical. Lamarre had otherwise passed a lengthy interview and screening process. "If a person feels they could be the target of discrimination, he may avoid getting tested and never know his true HIV status, or could delay much-needed life-saving treatment."
When Lamarre applied for the job in 2008, he was told he was rejected because his HIV status made him more susceptible to infections like colds and viruses, and that it was for his own protection. The TSA based its denial on Lamarre's T-Cell count and the medication he was taking, despite assurances to the TSA from his treating physician that he was perfectly capable of performing the job.
Lamarre, an Air Force veteran who also previously worked for the National Security Agency, has never had any of the medical conditions associated with AIDS, and has been able to control his HIV through medication. There was no doubt that Lamarre, who annually rides in a two-day, 165 mile bike ride for charity and has always held a steady job, was healthy enough to perform the duties of a TSO.
"We are hopeful that TSA's willingness to settle this case, and its agreement to review its medical guidelines, is an indication that in the future the agency will employ practices that reflect what the medical community has known for years — people with HIV are fully capable of doing their job and can live active and healthy lives," said Randall Marshall, legal director of the ACLU of Florida. "All employers, especially our federal agencies, should have policies to ensure that no one is denied the right to earn a living because of their HIV status."
"It's frustrating that people continue to face discrimination based on misguided ideas of what it means to live with HIV," said Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project. "We are glad that the TSA will be re-assessing its medical guidelines."
For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/hiv-aids/tsa-hiv-discrimination-case-profile