HHS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Secure Agreement Resolving HIV Discrimination Complaint Involving a New Jersey Home Healthcare Provider

Content From: HIV.govPublished: September 13, 20234 min read



Cross-posted from: HHS Newsroom

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey have secured a settlement agreement to resolve allegations that Comfort Hands Home Healthcare, LLC (Comfort Hands), a home healthcare provider, discriminated against a person with HIV in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Following an investigation, HHS OCR and the U.S. Attorney’s Office found that Comfort Hands, of Marlton, New Jersey, unlawfully discriminated against a potential client by denying home health care services based on her HIV status. 

Under the settlement agreement, Comfort Hands will, among other things, implement a non-discrimination policy to ensure that individuals with disabilities, including those with HIV or who are perceived to have HIV, are afforded full and equal opportunities to its benefits and services. Comfort Hands will also provide mandatory non-discrimination training to its employees and pay damages to the individual who experienced this act of discrimination.

The ADA prohibits places of public accommodation, such as Comfort Hands, from discriminating against people with, or perceived to have, disabilities, including HIV. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance from HHS, while Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does the same with respect to certain health programs and activities.

“The HHS Office for Civil Rights has a long history of taking enforcement actions to protect the rights of people with disabilities, including those with HIV,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer. “Today’s important settlement tangibly contributes to our efforts to ensure nondiscrimination in HHS-funded services. It also advances our newly reinvigorated Olmstead Initiative by removing discriminatory barriers to ensure individuals with disabilities can be served in their own homes and communities.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring that people with HIV do not face discrimination,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said. “The ADA prohibits health providers from denying services based on an individual’s HIV status. Our office remains steadfast in its efforts to ensure that individuals with HIV and other disabilities are protected from this kind of unlawful discrimination.”

Last year, U.S. Attorney Sellinger created a Civil Rights Division with the sole focus of enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the ADA, with the goal of protecting and upholding the civil rights of those in our community. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may file a complaint with the U.S Attorney’s Office at http://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/civil-rights-enforcement/complaint.

For more information on the ADA and HIV discrimination, visit www.ada.gov/aids. Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD). For more information on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and how it protects individuals with disabilities, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/disability/index.html. For more information on the nondiscrimination provisions in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/section-1557/index.html. For more information about OCR’s Olmstead activities, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/community-living-and-olmstead/index.html. You may file a complaint with OCR at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html.

The government is represented by Jaimenys Taveras, Investigator, Eric Brown, SEOS, Frank Musumici, SEOS, Linda C. Colon, Regional Manager and Fernando Morales, Regional Civil Rights Attorney HHS OCR, Attorney Advisors, Marie Soueid and Chayhann Mars, Office of the General Counsel Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Susan Millenky and Emily B. Goldberg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Division.

To read the full Voluntary Resolution Agreement text, please visit https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/compliance-enforcement/agreements/vra-comfort-hands/index.html

See related news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.