Reminder to Health Care Providers: You Have a Duty to Accommodate HIV-positive Patients
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for enforcing Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on a disability by places of public accommodation. On October 5, 2015, DOJ announced a settlement with Mercy Suburban Hospital in East Norriton, Pennsylvania that resolved allegations that the hospital refused to treat an HIV-positive patient.
In its press release, the DOL states:
According to the United States’ allegations, in 2013, an HIV-positive patient was turned away from a Mercy bariatric facility without evaluation or treatment because the patient was HIV-positive. Under title III of the ADA, no person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation may discriminate against an individual on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation.
The hospital agreed to pay $20,000 to the complainant and a $5,000 civil penalty.
This case serves as a useful reminder of the ADA’s application outside of the employment context. All businesses that qualify as places of public accommodation under the ADA should train their employees to understand their obligations to reasonably accommodate disabled patrons.