Scroll To Top

Lambda Legal
files appeal in HIV discrimination case

Lambda Legal
files appeal in HIV discrimination case

Lawsuit says policy against hiring HIVers violates the federal Rehabilition Act

Lambda Legal on Monday filed its opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia 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.

Lambda Legal represents Lorenzo Taylor, who is fluent in three languages, holds a foreign service degree from Georgetown University, and easily passed the rigorous application process required to be a Foreign Service officer. He was denied employment with the agency because he is HIV-positive. The State Department maintains a policy that prohibits HIV-positive people from being hired by the Foreign Service, stating that the agency cannot guarantee that employees will be sent to countries that have adequate HIV medical care.

Lambda Legal's original lawsuit, filed in late 2002, says the State Department's policy violates the federal Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against people with disabilities. The lawsuit seeks a change in the outdated policy. This spring, federal district court judge Rosemary Collyer 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.

"Lorenzo Taylor is being denied the job of his dreams, after years of preparing for it, based on a 20-year-old policy that bans every person with HIV regardless of overall health," says Jonathan Givner, director of the HIV Project at Lambda Legal. "Given his long history of excellent health, this makes no sense. The federal government needs a reality check." (

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff