Charges of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Discrimination in the Workplace

The Americans with Disabilities Act in Action

Published in: American Journal of Epidemiology, v. 156, no. 3, Aug. 2002, p. 219-229

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by David M. Studdert

Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other vulnerable populations with legal means of redress against discrimination, yet virtually nothing is known about how the intended beneficiaries have used these protections. This study aimed to describe the epidemiology of ADA charges alleging employment-related discrimination due to HIV and to investigate the charge-filing behavior of workers with HIV. Using a national database of all HIV discrimination charges filed since the inception of the ADA in 1991, the author described respondent employers, issues in dispute, and outcomes of charges. Next, he used multivariate regression analyses to compare the sociodemographic characteristics of charge filers with those of a nationally representative baseline sample of workers with HIV. Of the 3,520 HIV discrimination charges filed through 1999, 18.0% had merit and 14.1% received monetary compensation. Workers who were female (odds ratio (OR) = 0.79, p < 0.01), aged less than 25 years (OR = 0.36, p < 0.01), and aged 25-34 years (OR = 0.77, p < 0.01) filed disproportionately fewer charges. Controlling for underlying rates of discrimination in the baseline population magnified this underclaiming among young workers. The findings should help to target dissemination and support activities, designed to help workers take advantage of antidiscrimination protections, at the subgroups of workers who need them most.

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