Supreme Court Nominee Alito Helped Write 1980s DOJ Opinion That Employers Could Legally Fire People Living With AIDS
Supreme Court justice nominee Samuel Alito while serving as deputy assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration helped write a Department of Justice opinion that employers could legally fire people living with AIDS because of a "fear of contagion, whether reasonable or not," the Washington Post reports. The opinion said the firing would be legal because discrimination based on "insufficient medical knowledge" was not banned by federal laws protecting disabled people (Grunwald et al., Washington Post, 11/1). In a 1986 Post article, Alito was quoted as saying, "We certainly did not want to encourage irrational discrimination, but we had to interpret the law as it stands ... and it does not regulate what a private employer can do if he has a fear of a contagious disease." Terje Anderson -- executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS, which is opposing Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court -- said, "We urge the U.S. Senate to carefully examine the record of Judge Alito and to reject his narrow and hateful willingness to allow irrational fear and hatred to become enshrined in law," adding, "People living with HIV/AIDS need to know that the court system will protect our right to live free from discrimination" (NAPWA release, 11/2). Damon Dozier, congressional liaison for the National Minority AIDS Council, said, "This is quite disturbing, this information about his background in discriminating against those suffering from HIV and AIDS," adding, "Even though (Alito's work on the Justice Department opinion) was very early in the epidemic, it still is no excuse for discrimination against people who, quite frankly, contribute to the greatness of this nation" (Advocate, 11/3). President Bush on Monday nominated Alito, who has served as 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge since 1990, to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 10/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.