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Doe v. Dekalb County School Dist., 145 F.3d 1441 (11th Cir. July 17, 1998)
Keywords: ADA (qualified individual, assessment of medical risk; adverse employment action, objective test)
Introduction: John Doe sued the School District under the ADA to permanently enjoin it from transferring him from one teaching position to another. The district court granted the request for a permanent injunction. The Eleventh Circuit vacates and remands for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Facts: The School District has three distinct levels of special education programs for children with significant behavioral disorders. First, "interrelated" classrooms are for students with mild disorders; "self-contained" classrooms for children who are too "disordered" to participate in the interrelated program; third, "psychoeducation" classrooms are for students with the most severe behavioral problems.
John Doe taught in a psychoeducation classroom. But when he informed the School District that he was HIV-positive, he was transferred to an "interrelated" classroom because the psychoeducation students were much more aggressive, and there was a concern of HIV transmission if John Doe were injured by a student.
John Doe was not certified as an "interrelated" teacher and would be required to complete ten credit hours of course work in order to obtain certification. The School District offered to allow Doe to take three years to obtain certification and also offered to pay for his course work.
1. In order to prevail under the ADA, Doe must prove all three elements of his prima facie case by a preponderance of the evidence:
2. With respect to the first prong, a person who is infected with HIV is "disabled" for purposes of the ADA, even if he has not developed AIDS.
3. With respect to the second prong, the district court should have balanced the relevant safety factors regarding Doe's continued qualification for a psychoeducation position -- as required by School Bd. of Nassau County v. Arline, 480 U.S. 273, 107 S.Ct. 1123, 94 L.Ed.2d 307 (1987).
4. This inquiry must include:
5. In making these findings, a district court should defer to the reasonable medical judgments of public health officials.
6. Once a district court has made the necessary medical findings, it must weigh the statutory goal of ending disability-based discrimination against any legitimate concerns regarding "significant health and safety risks."
7. Because the district court failed to make factual findings regarding all of the factors in assessing the medical risk, the Eleventh Circuit remands for further findings.
8. With respect to whether the transfer constitutes an adverse employment action, the Eleventh Circuit, in a case of first impression, holds that the assessment of whether the transfer constituted an adverse employment action must be analyzed on an objective basis as opposed to a subjective basis. The district court applied a subjective test.
9. Therefore, the Eleventh Circuit reverses the district court judgment, vacates the injunction and remands for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
10. Click here to see actual case.
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