Christian Nursing Home Fires Nurse After Learning She Is HIV-Positive

Telling your co-workers that you're HIV-positive might make many people nervous. But the nurse was working at the Christian Care Center, a faith-based elder care facility whose motto is "Caring Is Our Calling." So during her first month on the job, the licensed practical nurse alerted her co-workers that she expected she would need to trade shifts or leave early to attend appointments to manage her HIV. But she never had that chance.

The day after she told some co-workers about her HIV status, she met with administrators and confirmed her status; they then fired her, according to a suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The woman's identity was not disclosed in the lawsuit.

Neither the Christian Care Center nor its operating manager, Tennessee-based Care Centers Management Consulting, returned calls from AOL Jobs, but they did release a statement saying that the hospital fired the nurse in an effort to protect patients' health.

"We remain firmly committed to maintaining the health and safety of our residents. That always has been and is our single-highest priority," Arnold was quoted as saying in a statement released to the Johnson City Press.

According to the lawsuit, the hospital fired the woman because administrators didn't believe that she could perform "the essential function of administering medications" because of her HIV-positive status.

The Centers for Disease Control says the HIV virus is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids or damaged tissue of an infected person, most commonly through sexual intercourse or the sharing of needles. After the outbreak of the AIDS virus in the 1980s, those Americans with the virus were eventually granted protected status as part of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act.

As a result, Americans with the disease must be given equal opportunity in public accommodations, transportation and employment. As long as the virus does not prevent the worker from carrying out the duties of his or her job, then the employer cannot fire someone simply because they have the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, says Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC's Memphis District Office.

HIV-positive Americans also have a history of emerging victorious from legal matters related to their being fired for their status. In one landmark case, Cirque de Soleil agreed in 2004 to settle with gymnast Matthew Cusick for $600,000, after firing him for having HIV. He had been cleared by his doctors to perform. More recently, and more directly relevant to the Care Centers case, the Pennsylvania-based Capital Healthcare Systems agreed to pay $22,000 to a nurse after rescinding an offer of employment because they learned of her HIV-positive status.

Still, the EEOC is not expecting an easy battle.

"It's clear that HIV-positive status gives one protection under the ADA," says Kores. "But there are very creative legal minds out there."

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Gene, as a Nurse Prac titioner I must tel you it's obvious you know nothing about HIV ir AIDs. Keep your ignorance to yourself. I hope this LPN sues the pants of this christian organization. Once again, christians demonstrate that hate and prejudice are their key values. WWJD?

September 14 2012 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I feel for this lady, I truly do. But as a former CNA that worked in a Nursing Home, I well remember having some residents that irrationally fought ANYONE that tried to help them simply because they were frightened .... for whatever reason. These residents would kick, scream, bite, pinch, and claw at you, many times drawing blood. Think a Med-Aide was exempt? Guess again ... they were treated to the same reactions we were. And even if there were 2 aides trying to help, you could STILL end up with battle wounds. So yes, I can WELL understand the company's POV on this. And even if there are drugs to take if you have been exposed, as has been posted .... if the person infected didnt tell anyone to begin with that they were infected, what makes you think they WILL STEP UP and say anything when something happens, since they are not even required to tell their employer about it??? And what about the resident that has no idea of what is going on? You may want to think that everyone would be honest about it, just because YOU might be, but sadly, not everyone is.
Yes, any incident such as these are supposed to be reported so they can be written down in case something comes of it later .... but many times as long the RESIDENT didnt sustain any damage, or you werent just bleeding all over the place, NOTHING was written up! Damage to the aides wasn't worried about much ... clean it off, put a bandaid on it, and continue working.

August 24 2012 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bruce Herbertson III

We need to refrain from lumping all Christians and Christian organisations into the same category. Like many on here I am a Christian and I do not feel the least bit scared if a health care worker were HIV+.

But I will say to those Christians out there that feel it is all right to pass judgement or condemn some because of their sero-status. You are not perfect and you need to read Matthew 7. Just remember Jesus chose to love those that society cast out. He associated with the gipsies, tramps and thieves. I ministered and healed lepers. Jesus didn't say that because someone had a disease they were not worth loving. Matthew 7... Read it. It is very clear.

May 31 2012 at 4:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

genesez--- Please , I'm only 84 yrs , and would appreciate not being infected with AIDS to shorten my life further. Surely , a person with hiv should not feel discrimination by other HEALTHY folks , who simply are threatened with the possibility of being infected with so debilitating a disease. Too much emphasis is being put on the VICTIM in many areas of life. Some people with AIDS have been prosecuted for passing AIDS intentionly. Please , keep your AIDS to yourself. Whatever you do. THANKS.

May 31 2012 at 1:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Bruce Herbertson III

I don't know why I am even getting into this with you people. Because I know I am going to get torn apart by backward thinking people who won't even take the time to educate themselves on HIV. But here goes. I have been HIV+ for 10 years now. I am healthy, my CD4 count is high and my viral load is undetectable. Guess what people? I work with the public and my employer knows that I am HIV+ and they don't mind. I commend this nurse for letting people know of her HIV status. Just imagine how many people out there that won't say a thing. Contrary to what a lot of you people may think. You have encountered many HIV+ people, either at your favourite restaurant, grocery store, hospital and in every conceivable profession there is. The server at your local steak house could be HIV+ and you would never know. Contrary to what you people think. HIV is extremely hard to catch. You can't get it from a sneeze, cough, drinking after someone who is HIV+, using the toilette after someone who is HIV+ or any other common contact. There are 2 ways and 2 ways only to get it. Unprotected sexual relations and IV introduction (drug use or accidentally). That is it. But even if a HIV- person has been exposed, then within a week of exposure the person could go on Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). They would be on HIV medicines for about 30 days. This has been proven to keep a person from being infected. No it isn't pleasant to take HIV medicines for a month, but look at the alternative of having to take them for the rest of your life. I guess the point I am trying to get at is that HIV like most retro-viruses is very hard to catch and it cant live outside of the body. I know I won't change most of your minds on this because your upbringing has taught you to think that HIV is a punishment for sinning against God. For that I am sorry that you will live your lives in fear and ignorance. But imagine what it is like for the HIV+ person, to have to endure social rejection, discrimination, ignorance and a whole host of problems. What you people should be concerned about are the diseases that you can catch easier than HIV. Stop demonising those of us living with HIV. We deserve as much to live and work as the rest of you.

May 23 2012 at 12:25 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bruce Herbertson III's comment

Bruce, I'm a heterosexual male RN that doesn't have the HIV virus ... I commend you for stating the obvious to me, I wish, like you, others would become EDUCATED about AIDS and HIV. I've worked with many HIV patients and have enjoyed them all, I never feared for my health, but I am educated ... and not religious. I've seen the agony families have put their children or siblings in and it isn't pretty. Thanks for standing up and telling it like it is...Joe3

May 24 2012 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lisa Slack

How brave of you to step up. I as a nurse hope she takes them to the cleaners. I have worked and cared for folks with HIV and am not a bit afraid because it is very hard to get. Its unbelievable that the facility calls itself a christian care provider because what they did was foul. Sadly she wasn't on the job long enough to get any kind of benefits ie... fmla etc most places who hire you for a specified schedule will fire you if you cannot do it no matter what the reasons are. I'm sure thats the path they are going to take.I wish folks understood the difference between HIV and AIDS because there is one. I hope you maintain your spirit and continue to fight.
PS: Amazing how many ignorant uninformed folks there are out there.

May 31 2012 at 1:53 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

As presented this story seems very odd to me. By law, one does not have to disclose disabilities to an employer and has rights regarding illness/disability including confidentiality if one informs the employer. In this case, the nurse - during her first weeks of employment - informs her co-workers of her HIV status because she's thinks she'll need to trade work shifts with some of them for her doctors' appointments. That is not how it should be done. She should have spoken to her supervisor and/or human resources. Depending on the company's policy about trading shifts, they would have (should have) worked with her on accommodating her treatment plan. BUT she was also probably in a probationary period, having just been hired - and apparently wasn't forthcoming during the hiring process about any speical needs she might have which could have impacted the decision to hire her. Not necessarily due to HIV but scheduling difficulties. Had she done things properly, her illness would not have been divulged to her coworkers and other staff but handled by the company's administration as provided by law. Perhaps she told her coworkers to cause a scene and get herself fired so she could sue. Perhaps not. But she certainly didn't do things properly in a way to protect her legal rights. Plus generally firing is much easier during probationary periods.

May 23 2012 at 6:22 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I feel bad for her, but, I don't blame the facility. Being HIV positive is not like being gay, or having a handicap, or being the "wrong" religion. The possibility exists that you could infect others with a potentially fatal disease.

May 23 2012 at 2:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to tannervin's comment

As lopng as she is using the same Universal Precautions that ALL healthcare providers are supposed to use, that possibility does not exist. Learn about it on

May 23 2012 at 3:44 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Lisa Slack

The chances of her infecting a 90yr old is slim to none. She probably got it from a patient. You'd be surprised at how many people you interact with everyday who have HIV and you don't even know it. She should have brought this up at hiring because she needed a modify schedule no new hire gets that luxury it doesn't matter what the issue is.

May 31 2012 at 1:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
codifex maximus

Why don't people with these diseases gain employment taking care of people with the same diseases?

May 23 2012 at 2:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to codifex maximus's comment

It takes quite a while to put on a floor-length gown, double glove, face mask and boot up outside a patient's room with an HIV+ status and these are MANDATORY requirements just to get them a glass of H2o. I would not want my my children, my relatives, my friends being taken care of by anyone with an HIV+ status. Neither would I want them being taken care of by anyone with VRE, MRSA, Conversion TB or C-diff. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but there are many other jobs/careers that HIV+ people can do other thathan taking care of already ill and compromised people.
Would you deliberately sneeze in someone's face? Would you fail to wash your hands thoroughly before preparing a meal? Would you empty garbage and then touch a baby's face? Common courtesy to another human being provides that we treat every patient with the same care we do our loved ones.

May 22 2012 at 11:42 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to AddEleven's comment

You speak about "common courtesy" to another human being, yet you also cut down people that have some sort of disease. How do you know that you aren't being cared for by someone with TB, or hepatitis, or MRSA, or HIV/AIDS? Do you ask everyone you come in contact with, "excuse me, do you have any communicable disease I need to be aware of?" And just because this is an "elder care" center does not mean everyone there is already "ill and compromised". You should meet my 94 year old grandfather, if you think that "old people" are all sick and decrepit. He still drives, climbs up on a roof to repair shingles, and tomorrow we are taking down the drapes in the living room and putting up window tint on the sliding glass doors.

Our favorite waiter at our favorite restaurant is gay, and just lost his partner to HIV/AIDS complications a few years ago. We have absolutely no problems being served by him, even knowing that he lived with someone that had HIV/AIDS ... and neither does the restaurant. I would think that if we were going to "catch" something from him, we would have done so already in the past 20 years that we have been going there.

May 29 2012 at 2:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rawkstar4179's comment
Lisa Slack

Very well said! Some folks making comments about her providing their loved one with care are absolutley off the mark. There loved one will catch MRSA or VRE before they would ever contract HIV. And most folks I know with HIV are very careful about keeping their skin intact etc.

May 31 2012 at 2:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Lisa Slack

We don't gown up or isolate our HIV patients and if it is done its to protect them from us. If a health care provider had VRE,MRSA or C-diff they would be pulled out of work bt the health dept and not allowed to come back until they are cleared by cultures and blood work. Many folks in the health care field got the illness through patient care and the fact that they still want to provide care says a lot about their integrity and their Folks have been providing patient care for years who are HIV positive and I have yet to find a case where they gave the disease to a patient. HIV is no where comperable to TB, VRE C-diff MRSA etc most of those are transmitted by air born droplets c-diff is caused by taking too many antibiotics allowing the normal flora in the bowel to die.Nursing is a calling you must want to be a nurse and you must have a backbone. Its sad to see people telling others to throw away their calling so easily.

May 31 2012 at 2:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do have compassion for the lady who has the HIV, but I also understand the facility's position. As far as the American Disabilities Act is concerned, I'm sure there's some stipulation about not firing someone due to their illness/disability, but I'll bet there's an exception - and that exception is in the event exposure could affect the health/life of the one who is ill OR the people they are caring for. To me, the burden of proof that a person is healthy and not a risk is up to the person with the illness; and if a doctor provided proof that safety is not compromised, then how often should they be retested?

We may appear ignorant and unlearned because of our fears, but look at it this way: If you and your child ran into a person and you knew that individual to be HIV+, and this person offered your child
some of her/his beverage or food, would you allow your child to accept?

May 22 2012 at 11:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Viviangel's comment

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