ACLU Settles AIDS Discrimination Case for Homeless Man, Creating Model Education Program for Shelters Nationwide
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK, NY — The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the settlement of an AIDS discrimination case in which Patrick Keegan Biggers, a homeless man, was evicted from a shelter in Maine because he was HIV positive.
Unlike most other settlements, the outcome involved no money and instead prompted a first-of-its-kind AIDS-awareness policy the ACLU hopes will serve as a model for shelters across the country.
“This settlement creates a new AIDS educational curriculum and discrimination policy which can be easily adopted by other shelters to teach staff and residents how HIV is transmitted and what their responsibilities are under the law,” said Michael Adams, the ACLU attorney on the case. “Continued public ignorance and hostility against people with HIV only leads to continuing discrimination.”
On December 23, 1997, administration at the Emmaus Center in Ellsworth, Maine evicted Biggers, saying that his HIV status was a “needless risk” to staff and residents. They defined the following actions as “dangerous behavior:” talking about his disease; handling a coffee cup; setting the table; asking to pick up a baby; and having dry sores on the back of his hands.
“It made me feel like a leper, like a castaway,” said Biggers about the experience.
The ACLU filed a complaint on Biggers’ behalf with the Maine Human Rights Commission and demonstrated that the shelter had violated Biggers’ rights under the American with Disabilities Act and the Maine Human Rights Act, both of which prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities or perceived disabilities. The shelter, which changed directors while the ACLU complaint was pending, then agreed to adopt the new AIDS awareness program and issue a letter of apology to Biggers. This was done in return for the ACLU and Biggers’ agreement not to file a lawsuit or seek damages.
As a result of the settlement, the ACLU and the Down East AIDS Network (DEAN) of Ellsworth have developed educational training workshops which will be implemented to address shelter staff and residents’ fears regarding the transmission of AIDS. The curriculum teaches people about AIDS and how and when to take precautionary measures, while reinforcing the basic guidelines of respect and equal treatment to which disabled individuals are entitled under the law.
“Although this began as a conflict because of the violation of Patrick Biggers’ rights, in the end the ACLU and the Emmaus Center worked together to develop a model AIDS program,” said Adams. “What Patrick wanted was to make sure this never happens to anybody else, and this settlement is a big step in that direction.”
January 8, 1999
Sister Lucille MacDonald
Post Office Box 811
Ellsworth, Maine 04605
RE: Biggers v. Home, Inc. d/b/a Emmaus Center, PA98-0239
Dear Sister Lucille:
This letter and its attachments constitute a release and settlement agreement between Patrick Biggers (“Biggers”) and Home, Inc. d/b/a Emmaus Center (“Emmaus”).
With this settlement agreement Patrick Biggers fully and finally releases Home, Inc. d/b/a Emmaus Center, in consideration for the provisions listed below, of any and all claims, rights, demands, suits, debts, personal injuries, disabilities, violations of law, causes of action or obligations of whatever kind, whether now known or unknown, arising out of the events described in Mr. Biggers’ complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission against Home, Inc. d/b/a Emmaus Center, PA 98-0239.
The undersigned abandon all claims and causes of action against each other arising out of the events described in Biggers’ complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission against Home, Inc. d/b/a Emmaus Center, PA 98-0239.
Biggers will withdraw complaint PA 98-0239 from the Maine Human Rights Commission in return for the following consideration:
1. A formal letter of apology from Emmaus to Biggers, attached to this agreement as Exhibit A;
2. Adoption by Emmaus, as of the date Sister Lucille MacDonald signs this agreement, of an Anti-Discrimination Policy, attached hereto as Exhibit B; and
3. Implementation by Emmaus, as of the date Sister Lucille MacDonald signs this agreement, of an HIV/AIDS Training Program, as outlined in the document entitled “DOWNEAST AIDS NETWORK HIV TRAINING FOR EMMAUS SHELTER STAFF AND CLIENTS”, attached hereto as Exhibit C, and as supplemented by letter of ACLU to Sister Lucille MacDonald dated December 3, 1998, attached hereto as Exhibit D.
Biggers and Emmaus represent and warrant that there are no present claims or assignments in law, equity, or otherwise, of or against the claims or causes of action of the undersigned which are subject to this settlement agreement.
Biggers assigns to his attorney, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Inc., all authority, rights, and powers necessary to enforce all aspects of this release and settlement agreement.
This release and settlement agreement contains the entire agreement between Biggers and Emmaus. All the terms of this release and settlement agreement are contractual and not a mere recital. This release and settlement agreement is executed without reliance by Biggers and/or Emmaus on any representation by any person released herein, or a representative thereof. Biggers and Emmaus have carefully read and understand the contents of this release and settlement agreement and sign it as their own free acts.
SISTER LUCILLE MACDONALD
On behalf of HOME, INC., D/B/A EMMAUS CENTER
Attorney for PATRICK BIGGERS
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