When Michael Lamarre applied for a job as a baggage screener at the Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale Airport, the Transportation Security Administration turned him down because he has HIV.
That's discrimination, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a complaint with the federal agency's national civil rights office Thursday, demanding a job for Lamarre, a veteran.
TSA officials told Lamarre they denied him the job for his own good, reasoning that as a baggage screener he would be in enclosed spaces and highly susceptible to infection.
But Lamarre, who has had HIV for almost 20 years, said he was "dumbfounded and angry" about the rejection letter he received last month. HIV has never prevented him from doing a job.
Lamarre's case is just one part of a bigger issue: a trend of "government-sponsored discrimination" against people with HIV, charges Robert Rosenwald, director of the LGBT Project of the ACLU of Florida.
"Discrimination is always wrong and, at its worst, when the government is the one discriminating," he said, noting that private companies have a better track record when it comes to discrimination than the government.
This isn't the first time the ACLU has brought a complaint against the government for HIV discrimination, which is prevented by federal statues and the Constitution.
In January, the ACLU sued the State Department for refusing to hire another HIV positive veteran. The Department now accepts HIV applicants.
If the TSA doesn't hire Lamarre, 44, the ACLU will continue fighting the case, taking the agency to federal court if necessary, Rosenwald said.
The ACLU has also written the White House asking for an executive order that would prohibit federal agencies from using HIV to exclude applicants from any position. If signed, the order would trump any TSA hiring decisions.
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