Transportation Security Administration Refused To Hire Qualified Baggage Screener Because He Has HIV

June 11, 2009

ACLU Files Complaint On Behalf Of Air Force Veteran

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a complaint with the Transportation Security Administration on behalf of an Air Force Veteran who was refused a job as a baggage screener with the Transportation Security Administration because he has HIV. 

“I was looking for a way to be able to serve my country once again and to supplement my income through this financial crisis with the possibility of changing my career.  But after a lengthy interview and screening process, I was told that I am incapable and unworthy because I have HIV,” said Michael Lamarre, who worked in intelligence for the National Security Administration while serving in the Air Force from 1984 to 1987.  “I am a long term HIV survivor, and it has never interfered in my ability to work.  As I have learned having lived with HIV for nearly 20 years, people with HIV need to be able to make a living and support themselves just like everyone else as well as have the right to serve their country.” 

In the spring of 2008, Lamarre applied online for a baggage screening position at the Fort Lauderdale airport with the TSA.  He passed an aptitude test in November 2008, and then underwent a comprehensive security clearance.  In March 2009, he was finally invited to come in for an interview.  At the interview, which included further testing, he was told that he would have to pass a physical.  Lamarre was required to disclose that he HIV at the physical.  As a result, he was told to submit additional information from his doctor, including his most recent lab results and a form from his doctor stating that his HIV would not interfere with his ability to perform the duties of as baggage screener, which he did. 

Lamarre has lived with HIV for 19 years.  His viral load is nearly undetectable and he has never had any of the medical conditions associated with AIDS.  Just last November he completed a 165 mile bike ride for charity in just 2 days.      

Shortly after submitting the additional information, Lamarre received a letter from Comprehensive Health Services, the contractor who administered the physical, saying that he was disqualified for the job because of his HIV status.  A copy of the letter is available at /hiv/discrim/39829lgl20090428.html.  During follow up calls to Comprehensive Health Services, he was told that the reason he was rejected is because his HIV status makes him more susceptible to virus and infections and that it was for his own benefit. 

Today the ACLU filed a complaint on Lamarre’s behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor for the Eastern Region of the TSA charging that the TSA is in violation of its own policy barring discrimination against people with disabilities. A copy of TSA’s non-discrimination policy is available on their website at:  http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/civil_rights_policy.pdf.  The complaint also charges that the refusal to hire Lamarre violated his equal protection guarantees.  It asks the TSA to rescind Lamarre’s disqualification from employment. 

“In the nearly 20 years that Michael Lamarre has lived with HIV, it has never affected his ability to work,” said Robert Rosenwald, Director of the LGBT Project of the ACLU of Florida.  “HIV discrimination is always wrong, but it is especially shameful when government is behind the discrimination.  I hope the TSA recognizes the harm it is causing Michael and our country by refusing to hire a highly motivated and qualified employee.”

“As we have known for quite a while now, people living with HIV can lead long and productive lives and can make significant contributions in all professions, including baggage screeners,” said Dr. Margaret Fischl, MD, director and principal investigator of the AIDS clinical research unit at the University of Miami. “A baggage screener with HIV would pose no risk to others and would be no more likely to become infected with a cold or virus than anyone else working in the airport.”   

A copy of the complaint filed by the ACLU as well as the letter notifying Lamarre that he was being disqualified because he has HIV and the paperwork submitted by his doctor stating he is physically capable of performing the duties is available at /hiv/discrim/39827res20090611.html.

In addition to Rosenwald, Lamarre is being represented by Shelbi Day, a staff attorney with the LGBT Project of the ACLU of Florida, James Esseks, co-director of the ACLU’s AIDS Project and Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s AIDS Project. 

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