A Utah man is suing Alaska public safety officials, saying the Alaska State Troopers illegally discriminated against him by rescinding a job offer to become a trooper after learning he was HIV positive.
The Department of Public Safety said in a statement that it rejects the notion “that this individual was discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or private medical information.”
The lawsuit does not claim the man was discriminated against due to sexual orientation, but instead because he was “regarded as disabled,” said Caitlin Shortell, an Anchorage attorney representing the anonymous plaintiff.
The plaintiff was living in Salt Lake City and working as a flight attendant when he applied for a job as a trooper in 2020, at a time when the state was aggressively recruiting for open law enforcement positions, according to the lawsuit filed in Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday.
Becoming a law enforcement officer was his longtime goal, the lawsuit said, and he had experience volunteering with law enforcement organizations in California.
The man had passed several elements of job screening and received a conditional job offer by the time he went through a medical exam administered by Beacon Occupational Health, also a defendant in the case.
During the exam, he disclosed his HIV status, the lawsuit says.
A nurse practitioner working for Beacon wrote “incorrect statements” that the man “might need an accommodation for his HIV” in his file, the lawsuit contends. His HIV is “undetectable, untransmissible and does not impact his ability to perform the duties of an Alaska State Trooper,” the lawsuit says.
During a separate, required polygraph examination — a common element of law enforcement hiring in Alaska and beyond — the man was asked about medical conditions and at first said he was uncomfortable disclosing but ultimately told the examiner he had HIV. He went on to pass two physical ability tests and received a job offer — only to be told, the lawsuit contends, that he wasn’t hired because he was not “as qualified” as the other applicants.
The lawsuit contends that the man was as qualified as other applicants but wasn’t hired because the Alaska State Troopers discriminated against him “due to his disability and assumptions about his disability, HIV, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act … and the Alaska Human Rights Act.”
Alaska State Troopers said it makes hiring decisions based on many factors including “criminal history, work history, psychological fitness, medical fitness and truthfulness” to “ensure that they can maintain the public’s trust.” Troopers couldn’t reveal more about the particular hiring case because of the litigation and privacy laws, the agency said in a statement.