The city of Clarksville is being sued for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act by revoking a reserve police officer’s job offer after discovering his HIV diagnosis.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Monday against the southern Indiana town in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleging that the Clarksville Police Department and Fire Marshals , Clarksville Metropolitan Police and Security illegally revoked a job offer to a qualified law enforcement officer based on his HIV diagnosis.
The DOJ says the law enforcement officer had been working for the city police department as a volunteer reserve officer for more than a year when he received a conditional offer of employment as a as a police officer in 2015, subject to passing a mandatory medical examination. prescribed by the Indiana public retirement system.
However, after learning of the complainant’s HIV diagnosis, the complaint says the examiner informed the Clarksville Police Chief that in his opinion the complainant did not meet statewide medical standards because his HIV was a “communicable disease” which posed a ” significant risk of substantial harm to the health and safety” of his colleagues and the public.
According to the DOJ, no objective scientific or medical evidence has been cited to support this opinion.
The Complainant submits that his HIV is well controlled by medication and that his viral load is, and at all relevant times, completely suppressed. The lawsuit also states that his HIV does not pose a significant risk to his health or safety or that of others in the performance of his duties as a police officer.
Following the review, the Clarksville Police Chief recommended that the Metropolitan Council of Fire, Police and Safety of Clarksville withdraw the job offer and terminate the complainant as a reserve police officer .
The complaint says the officer was told he “did not pass the basic statewide test” required by Indiana’s public retirement system.
The lawsuit says the city violated Title I of the ADA by withdrawing the officer’s job offer.
Title I prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified persons on the basis of disability “with respect to the termination of employees and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” Such discrimination can include withdrawing a job offer to a qualified person based on unsubstantiated and stereotypical views of the candidate’s disability, according to the DOJ.
After 15 months of plaintiff’s efforts to appeal the disqualification, defendants acknowledged that he was qualified by adding him to their list of police officers. However, the Complainant was never rehired in Clarksville.
He then found a job with another police department, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit alleges that Clarksville’s actions delayed the start of the plaintiff’s law enforcement career and caused him significant emotional distress, including humiliation, depression and anxiety, as well as other monetary and dignitary damages. He also alleges that the city’s actions have caused continued harm because rescinding the job offer leaves a void in his law enforcement career that is difficult to explain.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found reasonable cause to believe that the disability discrimination claims were true, according to the complaint. The EEOC referred the matter to the DOJ after conciliation efforts failed.
“Every day, we depend on law enforcement putting themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe,” Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said in a news release. “Those who are qualified and seek to serve their communities should not be unlawfully discriminated against.
“People living with HIV are entitled to the full protection of our anti-discrimination laws,” Myers continued. “Our office will work closely with our partners in the Civil Rights Division to ensure that those seeking to serve the public are not unlawfully discriminated against.”
According to the AP, Clarksville City Manager Kevin Baity said the city was working with the DOJ to “find an amicable solution.”
Indiana Lawyer has reached out to city officials for comment.
The case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, including damages for emotional distress and injuries sustained, and a jury trial. It also aims to reinstate the plaintiff in the position of police officer with seniority and retirement as if his employment had continued full-time and without interruption since the date of the withdrawal of his conditional offer.
The case is United States of America v. The town of Clarksville, Indiana, 4:22-cv-00056.