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PRESS RELEASE
10-3-16

Granite Mesa Health Center Sued By EEOC for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation

Nursing Home Fired a Certified Nurse Assistant When He Disclosed He Was HIV-Positive, Federal Agency Charged

AUSTIN, Texas - A nursing home violated federal law by discharging an employee who hesitated when ordered to provide his HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) test results as a condition of his continued employment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the lawsuit, Granite Mesa Health Center, Ltd. unlawfully required a medical examination of a certified nurse assistant (CNA) immediately after he disclosed that he had tested as HIV-positive. The employee was discharged because of his HIV-positive status and in retaliation for asserting his rights under the ADA when he requested a copy of the written policy requiring disclosure of HIV test results and hesitated to submit the results.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees with disabilities from being harassed, fired or from other employment decisions based on disabilities that are covered under the act, such as having been tested positive for HIV. The ADA also specifically prohibits an employer from imposing on employees disability-related inquiries and medical examinations that are not job-related and consistent with business necessity.

EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Granite Mesa Health Center Ltd., Granite Mesa Health Center GP Inc., Asista Corporation, Legend Healthcare, LLC, Legend Oaks, Granite Mesa, LLC., The Ensign Group, Inc. and Copeland Healthcare, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-01113-LY ). Because the nursing facility has been sold twice since the CNA was discharged, EEOC also sued the successive owners and employers. EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.

"Federal law prohibits requiring an employee to submit his HIV test results as a condition of his continued employment where the employee's job duties do not pose a risk of transmission," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Patrick Connor. "The limited avenues for transmission of HIV/AIDS have long been understood by the medical and health care community. The employer here nonetheless made decisions based on unfounded fears and misperceptions rather than on correct, current medical knowledge about HIV infection."

Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez of EEOC's San Antonio Field Office added, "All employers, and especially medical employers, should understand how HIV is and is not transmitted, and how to practice the universally recognized safe procedures already used for all other health care work. This blatantly discriminatory discharge decision had nothing to do with the employee's ability to do his job competently, effectively and safely, particularly since his job duties did not require him to perform invasive procedures."

President Barack Obama has charged federal agencies to implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which includes addressing and preventing employment-related discrimination against people living with HIV. This case serves as an example of how EEOC will enforce federal laws to ensure that qualified people are not wrongfully deprived of an opportunity to earn a living simply because of their HIV status.

EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at www.eeoc.gov.