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Indiana Town Facing Lawsuit After Withdrawing Employment Offer to HIV-Positive Officer

The town of Clarksville, Indiana, faces a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The town’s police department is accused of illegally withdrawing a job offer to a man who was qualified to work for the department. The offer was rescinded when the department learned that the applicant had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to the complaint filed by the DOJ.

When the applicant received the offer, “he had been successfully performing the essential duties of the job as a volunteer reserve officer for more than a year,” court documents said. “During all relevant time periods, [he] is and has been qualified to perform the essential functions of a police officer.”

The offer for employment was conditional upon the man passing a state-mandated medical exam in 2015. During the exam, the applicant informed the medical examiner that he was receiving treatment from a doctor for HIV and was taking prescribed antiretroviral medications. Besides the HIV and his medical regimen, the examiner noted that the man had no other significant health issues and that there was no long-term evidence of the disease being active.

However, despite providing no medical evidence to support his opinion, the examiner still recommended to the town’s police chief that the man “did not meet the statewide medical standards” due to having HIV, which the examiner claimed was a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health and safety” of department employees and the public, the DOJ said. The examiner also did not make any findings specific to how the man’s HIV status impacted his ability to work for the department as a police officer, if at all.

“The medical examiner’s determination was at odds with objective evidence showing that [the man] was physically able to perform the job of police officer,” the DOJ said.

Subsequently, the man’s employment offer was revoked and he was terminated from his position as a reserve police officer in November 2015.

The man spent more than a year appealing the disqualification, which the Clarksville Metropolitan Board of Fire, Police, and Safety Commissioners said was because he failed to pass the statewide baseline test.

Although the town changed its determination by August 2016—acknowledging that the man was qualified and adding him back to its list of police officer hiring list—it did not rehire him.

The man later accepted employment as a police offer with a different department; however, the town’s “actions delayed the start of [his] career in law enforcement,” the DOJ said. The lawsuit also alleges that the town’s actions caused him “significant emotional distress, including humiliation, depression, and anxiety, as well as other monetary and dignitary harms,” plus continuing harm due to the gap in his employment history.

Along with seeking damages, the lawsuit is also requesting that the town modify its policies and procedures to ensure its employment practices are compliant with the ADA, and that the man be reinstated as a police officer with seniority and retirement benefits.

Clarksville’s town manager Kevin Baity said that the town has been working with the DOJ to resolve the issue. Baity added, “Despite the recently filed lawsuit, the Town of Clarksville will continue to work to find an amicable solution to the complaint,” an NPR affiliate reported

(United States of America v. The Town of Clarksville, Indiana, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana Indianapolis Division, No. 22-cv-00056, 2022)