Model Workplace Guidelines

Recommended Guidelines

Workplace policies and educational programs reduce employee fears and misconceptions about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and help to:

  • Provide current and accurate scientific evidence that employees with HIV/AIDS do not pose risks of transmitting the virus to coworkers through ordinary workplace contact;
  • Provide current and accurate information about HIV risk reduction for employees and their families;
  • Avoid conflict between employees with HIV/AIDS and the employer regarding discrimination or other employment issues;
  • Inform employees they have rights regarding work continuation, confidentiality of medical and insurance records, and general health and safety;
  • Provide specific and ongoing education and equipment to employees in health care settings who are at risk of exposure to HIV, and assure the use of appropriate infection-control procedures; and
  • Reduce financial impacts, legal implications, and other effects of HIV/AIDS in the workplace.

Workplace Policy Content

People with HIV/AIDS have the same rights and opportunities as other individuals. While some employers prefer a policy specific to HIV/AIDS and its unique issues, others prefer a general policy concerning illnesses and disabilities. A general policy should address HIV/AIDS in the same way as other major illnesses. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) encourages the use of the following statements in workplace policy:

1.    Discrimination and Accommodation
The employer treats employees with HIV or AIDS no differently than employees with other chronic or life-threatening illnesses. Employees have the following rights:

  • To work if they are physically and mentally able to perform assigned job duties;
  • To not encounter discrimination because of any disabling condition; and
  • To have medical documentation and information kept confidential as required by law.

Both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 consider an individual disabled if the individual:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Regarded as having such an impairment.

Both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act define HIV and AIDS as disabilities.

2.    Confidentiality and Privacy
The employer does not require an employee to disclose an HIV infection or AIDS. Any medical documentation or information provided by an HIV/AIDS-infected employee to medical or management personnel is confidential and private information.

The law forbids employers from disclosing this information without the employee's knowledge and consent, except as provided by the Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapters 81 and 85. Any individual who breaches an HIV-positive employee's rights commits a serious offense. This offense may lead to both civil and criminal penalties.

To qualify for workers' compensation or other similar benefits, an employee who claims a possible work-related exposure to HIV infection must provide the employer with:

  • A written statement of the date and circumstances of exposure; and
  • Documentation that, within 10 days after the date of exposure, the employee had a test result indicating an absence of HIV infection.

3.    Information for Employees
What is HIV/AIDS? The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and attacks the body's immune system, leaving it vulnerable to infection. HIV is present in the earliest stages of infection, when there are no symptoms, and in people with AIDS. HIV infection is considered a chronic, treatable disease. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection.

4.    Assistance for Employees with HIV/AIDS
Some employers have designated benefit programs available to employees and family members with HIV infection, such as referrals for testing, counseling, medical, and psychosocial services.

Employers who have no employee assistance program may consider working with other organizations that provide help, including local health departments, AIDS services organizations, American Red Cross chapters, community support groups, clinical treatment and counseling services, and the religious community. 

Additional Information on HIV/AIDS