U.S. Attorney’s Office Settles ADA Claim With Plastic Surgeon Over Alleged HIV Discrimination

Content From: HIV.govPublished: August 05, 20203 min read


Cross-posted from DOJ Newsroom

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced [on July 28, 2020] that, as part of continued efforts to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, it has reached a settlement with Midwest Plastic Surgery in Hinsdale to resolve claims of discrimination against a 47-year-old woman with HIV.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office found that Midwest Plastic Surgery discriminated against the patient when its plastic surgeon unlawfully refused to perform a breast reduction surgery due to the patient’s HIV status. The patient had been living with HIV for more than 25 years, but this was the first time she had been refused medical treatment because of the virus. The U.S. Attorney's Office’s investigation revealed that Midwest Plastic Surgery’s actions were not based on, or consistent with, current medical knowledge. Moreover, an individual’s HIV status is not a legitimate or lawful reason to refuse to treat a patient seeking medical care.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement and consistent with penalties available under the ADA, Midwest Plastic Surgery will pay $25,000 to the victim of discrimination. In addition, Midwest Plastic Surgery must train its employees on the requirements of the ADA, implement an antidiscrimination policy, and report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office every time a person is not accepted as a patient, with a written justification for the decision. The U.S. Attorney’s Office waived the civil fine in recognition of the remorse expressed by the plastic surgeon for his misconduct and Midwest Plastic Surgery’s cooperation during the investigation.

This settlement is the second HIV-related discrimination case the U.S. Attorney's Office has resolved in recent months. In December 2019, the office reached a settlement with Downers Grove Tattoo Company, which had unlawfully refused to give a customer a tattoo because she was HIV-positive. Under the terms of that settlement agreement, the Downers Grove Tattoo Company paid $10,000 to the victim for violating the ADA. In addition, Downers Grove Tattoo Company was required to train its employees on the requirements of the ADA and implement an antidiscrimination policy.

“Physicians, tattoo artists, and others should understand that individuals seeking medical treatment or other physical care should not be excluded based on HIV,” said John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “These settlements should send a clear message that individuals living with HIV are entitled to the same services as everyone else.”

Title III of the ADA prohibits public accommodations, such as doctor’s offices and tattoo parlors, from excluding people with disabilities, including people with HIV, from enjoying goods, services, privileges, facilities, advantages and accommodations provided. For more information regarding the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat HIV discrimination, please visit https://www.ada.gov/hiv/ada_hiv_discrimination.htm.

The ADA was signed into law 30 years ago this week. To learn more about the obligations of public accommodations under federal disability rights statutes, call the Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301, 800-514-0383 (TTY), or log on to the ADA website at www.ada.gov.