Facing AIDS on the job Issue will arise for all employers, chamber is told

April 09, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Dealing with AIDS in the workplace is a question of when, not if, a group of Carroll County business people was told yesterday.

"The infected population of AIDS numbers is not small and is expanding throughout the world and suburbs," Sondra Stafford, president of Regional Resources, told the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.

"There is no such thing as 'out there' and 'away from us' in dealing with AIDS."

Baltimore-based Regional Resources presents seminars for businesses about AIDS, sexual harassment, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other corporate concerns. The consulting firm also gives professional skills seminars and manages fund-raising events.

Ms. Stafford, along with Andrea Wilson, curriculum specialist, and Joyce Kramer, chief operating officer at Regional Resources, spoke at the chamber's monthly meeting about developing corporate policies concerning HIV-infected employees.

"You need to build-in preparations to protect yourself so when this happens [an employee becomes HIV-infected] you can deal with the situation as it comes up with a minimal amount of disruption and surprises and the greatest amount of compassion," said Ms. Wilson, who creates the company's HIV seminars.

HIV-infected employees are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said. However, accommodating an HIV-related disability is not easy.

"HIV is different than widening an aisle for a wheelchair, providing a special phone or allowing a Seeing Eye dog," Ms. Wilson said. "In those cases, the disability is likely to remain the same throughout the person's employment. With HIV, each person's situation is different."

Ms. Wilson said that because AIDS is a syndrome, patients develop different diseases as their immune systems are destroyed. One patient may develop flu, another a cold and still another a sinus infection.

"If your immune system is damaged, the diseases will hit you at your weak points," she said.

No one policy will cover every business, Ms. Wilson said. However, business owners should make sure they have job descriptions for employees to help determine when they can no longer perform their duties.

"You need to look at how your organization functions," she said. "You need to figure out who fills in for who and at what point you need to let someone go."

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