210 – HIV-AIDS in the Workplace

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Policy

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is committed to maintaining a safe, healthy, and efficient work environment. The HCSO also recognizes that dealing with persons with Group IV AIDS and its related conditions (such as Group III persistent generalized lymphadenopathy) and persons with Group II seropositive test results represent potential risks for employees.

Employees: An employee diagnosed as having HIV / AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus / Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) will be treated no differently than any other employee with a life-threatening illness. Every effort shall be made to treat such employees with compassion and understanding and to assist them to the fullest extent possible in coping with their condition.

Accommodation

Based on the most current medical information, including that from the United States Public Health Service, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the United States Surgeon General, there is minimal risk that the AIDS virus can be transmitted by casual contact in the normal workplace environment. Therefore, subject always to changes in current medical information, the HCSO shall allow employees with AIDS or any of its related conditions to continue to work and to provide them with reasonable accommodations as long as they are medically able to perform their assigned duties and pose no danger to their own health and safety or the health and safety of others.

Discrimination and Harassment Prohibited

Employees are prohibited from harassing or otherwise discriminating against a coworker or member of the public who is known to be HIV-positive or who is known to have AIDS. Nor may employees unreasonably withhold assistance from or refuse to work with coworkers or members of the public out of fear of being exposed to AIDS. Disciplinary sanctions will be imposed if the HCSO determines that an employee has engaged in any conduct prohibited by this section.

The HCSO nevertheless recognizes that employees are entitled to protection from exposure to communicable diseases, including AIDS, and that there may be instances when such protection takes precedence over an employee’s obligation to render assistance to or to work with a coworker or member of the public. In each such instance, the HCSO shall, in determining whether disciplinary sanctions should be imposed, examine whether the employee’s conduct was reasonable and justified under the circumstances.

Education

In recognition of the need of its employees to be accurately informed about the nature of AIDS and its related conditions, the HCSO will offer a mandatory education program to all employees. An employee’s attendance at such program is required and will be documented. Such programs will be offered quarterly to all new employees and to all others who wish to attend, and an educational pamphlet will be provided annually to all employees.

Training

Those employees assigned to the medical clinic or whose assigned duties include occasional attendance in the medical clinic area will receive additional training regarding universal precautions for the prevention of transmission of blood borne pathogens in health care settings.

Cost of Testing and Counseling

Subject to the approval of the Sheriff or his or her designee, the HCSO may pay the costs of testing and counseling an employee about HIV infection if the employee establishes, to the agency’s satisfaction, that:

  1. He or she has been exposed or has reasonable belief that he or she has been exposed to HIV / AIDS while performing his or her assigned duties, and
  2. He or she has been exposed or has reasonable belief that he or she has been exposed to HIV / AIDS in a manner determined by the United States Public Health Service to pose a risk of infection.

Exposure To HIV / AIDS While On Duty

An employee who may have been exposed to HIV / AIDS while performing his or her assigned duties will not be required to be tested. If so desired, any request for testing and information will be made in writing to the infection section of the Health Services Division.

First Report of Injury

Any work-related exposure to HIV / AIDS will require the employee’s completion of a First Report of Injury form in accordance with personnel regulations.

Confidentiality Of Employee Medical Records

The employee’s medical record and all other information relating to incidents of possible HIV / AIDS exposure (except any document, such as the E-1 form, required by law or HCSO policy to be transmitted to another agency) will be treated as confidential information and maintained separate and apart from the employee’s personnel file. Any information contained in the E-1 report will be treated confidentially and on a “need to know” basis except when such information must be transmitted by law. If the employer and employee relationship is subsequently ended for any reason, the HCSO will provide the employee with a copy of all such information upon his or her leaving and will continue to maintain such information for a period of not less than two (2) years.

HCSO Responsibility for Maintaining Confidentiality of HIV / AIDS Information Concerning Inmates

Unless disclosure is required by state or federal law or regulation or judicial order, medical information regarding an inmate diagnosed as having HIV / AIDS is confidential.

Restricted Access to Information

Access to files containing information about the medical condition of an inmate diagnosed as having HIV / AIDS may be restricted to those employees who are charged with the safekeeping of such files and who have a legitimate need to know and use the information contained therein.

Release of Medical Information

The contents of files containing information about the medical condition of an inmate diagnosed as having HIV / AIDS may be shared with other agencies subject to the prior consent of the affected inmate or as may be authorized by state or federal law or regulation.

Confidentiality of Information

All employees are required to refrain from the unauthorized communication of any medical information about the medical condition of an inmate diagnosed as having HIV / AIDS. Any such unauthorized communication by an employee may subject the employee to disciplinary action which may include termination.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

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