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Clarksville denies it violated civil rights statutes by rejecting police candidate with HIV

By John Boyle, IPB News | Published on in Government, Health, Law, Statewide News

An attorney for the Town of Clarksville is denying allegations that it revoked a job offer to a prospective police officer because of his HIV diagnosis.

The U.S. Justice Department claimed the decision was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act in a federal lawsuit filed in April. The lawsuit alleges Clarksville officials offered the man a job with the local police department in 2015, conditional upon passing a state-mandated medical examination. The Clarksville Metropolitan Board of Fire, Police and Safety Commissioners rescinded the offer weeks later, after the medical examiner advised against hiring the man because his HIV diagnosis posed “a significant risk of substantial harm and safety” to coworkers and the public.

Clarksville’s attorney submitted the town’s answer to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Monday. In the new document, the town’s attorney claims it did not discriminate or violate the ADA or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The attorney said the town “justifiably and reasonably relied upon the medical opinion of a qualified physician” that the man did not meet Indiana’s health standards to become a police officer. The state requires all officers to be members of the 1977 Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund. Applicants who don’t pass the medical examination aren’t eligible for membership.

Town officials claim they withdrew the job offer because the examiner ruled that the man did not meet medical requirements, not on the basis of disability or HIV diagnosis.

The man, who is unnamed in the lawsuit, passed a re-examination in August 2016 and was subsequently approved for membership in the 1977 fund. Clarksville placed him back on its hire list for the police department a month later, though he was never given a second job offer. The town’s attorney said the man was notified of the next available job opening via certified mail and claimed he did not report for an agility test required for police hires.

DOJ attorneys said in the original lawsuit that the man was also fired from his role as a volunteer reserve officer with the police department after the examination.

Clarksville and the DOJ have both requested a jury trial.

John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John’s coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.