A decorated Memphis police officer is suing the Nashville Metro Police Department after he claims they rescinded a job offer after they discovered he was HIV positive.
Nashville police have identified police as a ‘danger to the public,’ officer claims.
Nashville police were aware long before police knew he was HIV-positive and had medical records showing his viral load was undetectable and undetectable, calling him ‘no threat to colleagues or community members.’
The officer, who was black and filed as a ‘John Doe’, was once named Memphis Police’s ‘Officer of the Year,’ before being offered a new position with Nashville in 2020 under then-Police Chief Steve Anderson.
Allison Brassell, an attorney with the Nashville Metropolitan Department of Law, issued a statement in response saying they declined to comment on the case.
Police Chief Anderson resigned at the time of the decision.
A decorated Memphis police officer is suing the Nashville Police Department after he claims they rescinded a job offer after they discovered he was HIV-positive and called him a danger to the public.
A federal lawsuit filed Friday details the police’s background in catching a killer and taking on a series of the toughest jobs in the city of Memphis.
The officer discovered he had HIV in 2015, a few years after starting work at the Memphis Police Department, where he ‘received multiple awards for valor.’
‘By any measure, [Doe] He is a model officer and a credit to every police department and community he has served,’ the lawsuit said, which also noted that he was promoted to crisis intervention work and given a raise.
Doe’s wife took a job in Nashville, three hours east of Memphis, and Doe wanted a transfer and applied for a job so he wouldn’t have to make the long commute to his wife and daughter, according to the filing.
The officer received his offer from Nashville police on February 25, 2020, pending a medical exam.
A doctor in the department took a blood sample without asking why, the suit argued, and informed police of his HIV-positive status — something Doe already knew.
The officer argued that he was labeled as undetectable – in that the disease does not show up on viral load tests but does show up on antibody tests, and that he cannot transmit the virus for more than five years.
He received a rejection letter the following month from Nashville police, which alleged years of severe understaffing in the wake of a deadly school shooting earlier in the year.
The rejection letter said, ‘The Civil Service Medical Officer’s report states that you have not been recommended for joining the Police Academy.
‘All applicants for the position of Police Officer Trainee must meet or exceed the medical criteria set forth in United States Army Induction Standards, 40-501.’
The officer, who is black and filed as a ‘John Doe’, was once named Memphis Police’s ‘Officer of the Year’ and was offered a new position with Nashville police under then-Police Chief Steve Anderson in 2020 (pictured)
The federal lawsuit filed Friday details the police background of catching a killer and taking on a series of the toughest jobs in the city of Memphis.
Nashville police use the same standards as the United States Army in medical examinations.
The suit claims that Nashville police ‘inadvertently implied’ that his HIV-positive status meant that they would not hire him regardless.
It argues that John Doe ‘posed no significant risk to others and was otherwise qualified for the job for which he applied’ and therefore was discriminated against and violated federal law.
“Policies that explicitly deny people jobs because of their HIV status are out of date with science,” said Jose Abrigo, who directs the HIV Project for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and represents the officer.
‘In this case, our client is not identifiable,’ he told The Daily Beast.
‘He is HIV positive, [but] He is perfectly healthy. It operates under the assumption that old HIV stigma,… [that] If you’re around someone with HIV, you’re likely to catch it.’
Both Doe’s appeal and medical waiver were denied by the Division.
Abrigo said the lawsuit is being filed federally because the military code cited by Nashville police has been repealed.
‘Lambda also challenged the military code, so that now, until April 2022, people living with HIV can enlist in the army,’ he said. ‘So, that doesn’t hold anymore.’
The officer instead took a position with the Tennessee Highway Patrol but the suit claims he suffered ’emotional pain and suffering, stress, anxiety, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, inconvenience, and other financial and dignified damages.’
The lawsuit asks for a court order to stop Nashville police from hiring people with HIV. It asks for the officer’s lost wages, bonuses and benefits — plus an unspecified amount for damages.
Abrigo decried policies that prevent people with HIV from serving, calling them outdated.
“Everyone has the right to support their family and get a job, regardless of their disability,” he said. ‘… Unfortunately, this kind of thing still exists all over the country. But we are challenging [these policies] One after another.’
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