Court set to hear case charging Condoleeza Rice with HIV discrimination

Lambda Legal will argue that HIV-positive Foreign Service applicant faced discrimination.

BY Matthew Van Atta

April 25 2006 11:00 PM ET

Lambda Legal's
HIV Project director, Jon Givner, will present oral
arguments before the U.S. court of appeals for the District
of Columbia on Thursday in a lawsuit on behalf of a
man who was denied employment as a Foreign Service
officer by the U.S. State Department because he is
HIV-positive. The case is filed against Condoleezza Rice in
her capacity as Secretary of State.

Lorenzo
Taylor—who speaks three languages, holds a foreign
service degree from Georgetown University, and easily
passed the rigorous application process required to be
a Foreign Service officer—was denied employment
solely because he is HIV-positive. State Department rules
state that because Foreign Service officers can be
assigned to any country, including those with poor
health care systems, HIV-positive applicants are
denied positions.

Lambda Legal's
original lawsuit, filed in late 2002, seeks a change in
the outdated policy. Federal district court judge Rosemary
Collyer in spring 2005 issued an opinion in favor of
the State Department, saying that the government
should not have to accommodate Taylor by letting him
use some of his sick and vacation leave, available to all
Foreign Service officers, to travel to see his doctor.

Lambda Legal's
appeal argues that the Rehabilitation Act—similar to
the Americans With Disabilities Act but covering
federal employees—requires employers to make
reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis as
long as the employee can fulfill the responsibilities of the
job, which Taylor can. Currently, if Foreign Service
officers are diagnosed with HIV infection while on the
job, reasonable accommodations are made for those
employees. There is no evidence to suggest that this has
caused any difficulties for the State Department,
Lambda argues, and as such there is no reason to
prohibit the hiring of employees who are already
HIV-positive.

Givner will
present oral arguments in the case at 9:30 a.m. on April 27
at the U.S. court of appeals, located at 333 Constitution
Ave. N.W. in Washington, D.C. (The
Advocate
)

Tags: Health

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