Guidance for Employees with HIV and their Coworkers
As an employer or human resources (HR) professional, you may be seeking guidance on how to provide a positive and productive work environment for employees with HIV and their coworkers. Here are common questions, along with guidance, to offer employees with HIV.
Guidance for Employees with HIV
Disclosing Your Status as an Employee
If you have HIV, in most cases, the decision to disclose your HIV status at work is a personal choice.
One benefit of disclosing at work is that it can create supportive relationships with your coworkers. On the other hand, telling people that you have HIV may have the opposite effect and cause your colleagues to treat you differently. You have to be the judge of which outcome is more likely.
If you decide to disclose to one or more of your coworkers, think carefully about which individuals to tell and how to tell them. Should you tell your boss or the human resources department before you talk to your coworkers? Should you tell your entire work team about your diagnosis or just disclose to individuals? It’s good to have a plan in mind before you start telling your colleagues.
Your Rights as an Employee with HIV
As an employee with HIV, you have a right to remain in the workforce to the fullest extent possible, and a right to equal employment opportunities. Several federal, state, and local laws determine how employers design workplace programs pertaining to employees with HIV.
Employees with HIV are protected from discrimination in employment by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits most private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies, joint labor management committees, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. These provisions include, but are not limited to:
- Job application procedures
- Hiring and firing
- Job training
The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks. Read more from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about HIV and employment discriminationexternal icon.
Guidance for Coworkers of an Employee with HIV
Here is guidance to offer those who work with employees with HIV.
Working with an Employee Who Has HIV
When you learn that a coworker has HIV, you may be surprised, and unsure of what to do. Although this may be an initial reaction, you should treat all of your coworkers in a respectful and equal manner.
People with HIV want to continue to live and work to the fullest extent possible. If you are unsure of what to do when responding to a coworker who has HIV, the best advice is to maintain professionalism and respect. There are many ways to respond when learning a coworker has HIV:
- Be compassionate. Try to empathize with the difficult circumstances and uncertainties that your coworker is experiencing. Be there to listen and help if needed.
- Be supportive. Be the workplace friend and coworker you have always been. Include your coworker in the same work and social activities as always, whenever possible. Extend your support just as you would to other coworkers.
- Protect the right to privacy and confidentiality. If your coworker tells you that they have HIV, it is illegal for you to tell others without their permission.
- If you hear a rumor that a coworker has HIV, don’t repeat it.
- Even if a person has told others that they have HIV, don’t tell your other coworkers. Allow your coworker the right to tell others.
- Once a coworker has told you that they have HIV, you may be curious and want to know more. First, ask if they want to talk about it. Don’t pressure your coworker with questions. Let your coworker decide how much or how little they want to share.