Rodriguez-Alvarez v. Municipality of Juana Diaz, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23342 (D. P.R., Feb. 17, 2017)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico denied summary judgment for the defendants in an employment discrimination case, allowing the case to proceed and be decided on the merits. Rodriguez-Alvarez, a person living with HIV (PLHIV), brought the complaint when her employers, after learning of her HIV status, closed the department bathroom and kitchenette, forcing Rodriguez-Alvarez to walk five to ten minutes to use the bathroom and, at times, urinate in the hallways. They also changed her shift and relieved her of all her previous duties; forced her to sit at her desk with nothing to do; and stopped inviting her to social gatherings to which she had been invited for the past thirteen years.

At issue was whether Rodriguez-Alvarez’s HIV status substantially limited her immune system function for the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under which she brought suit. In denying defendants’ challenge, the court relied on The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) and guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ADAAA states that Congress had the express intent to lower the threshold for determining that an individual qualifies as disabled, and the EEOC guidance states the threshold issue of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity should not demand extensive analysis.

The court stopped short of holding an HIV diagnosis is a per se disability under the ADA, and it stated that more evidence may be required for the individualized assessment to be made at trial.