Matter of Kyle Smith
Kyle Smith, of Columbus, Ohio, applied to be a Foreign Service Office Management Specialist. An applicant with 13 years of relevant experience, he successfully completed the interview process and was given a conditional offer of employment. Upon learning that Smith is HIV positive, the Foreign Service informed him that he did not qualify for medical clearance and would not be considered for employment. The State Department barred people with HIV from Foreign Service jobs, claiming that people with HIV may require medical treatment not available in less developed countries — all without any consideration of the applicant’s overall health. Smith has been living with HIV for years and has a T-cell count that rivals that of most HIV-negative people. He has never experienced a long-term illness or opportunistic infection, and his doctor describes his health as “excellent.” Lambda Legal filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Smith’s behalf.
The U.S. Foreign Service — along with the U.S. military — is the only type of federal employment where people with HIV are broadly blocked from consideration. The federal Rehabilitation Act prohibits the government from discriminating against people with disabilities, including HIV.
Lambda Legal's Impact
Lambda Legal’s representation of Smith was part of our effort to end HIV discrimination in the Foreign Service. The Department of State denied candidates for Foreign Service Specialist or Foreign Service Officer the individualized consideration to which they are entitled under federal antidiscrimination law.
- October 2003 Lambda Legal files discrimination complaint against the U.S. State Department with the Department’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights.
- July 2005 State Department’s Equal Opportunity Commission issues order in favor of State Department, based on Administrative Judge’s ruling relying on federal district court decision in Taylor v. Rice, Lambda Legal’s case representing Lorenzo Taylor whose application to be a Foreign Service Officer was denied because he has HIV.
- August 2005 Lambda Legal files an appeal to ask a higher court to reserve the decision of a trial court with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission.
- January 2008 State Department's Equal Opportunity Commission Appeals Division reverses the Administrative Judge's ruling, finds that there is sufficient evidence to require a hearing and rules in favor of Smith, relying on the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in Taylor v. Rice, and remands case to the EEOC's Hearings Unit for a hearing on the merits.
- March 2008 After the U.S State Department adopts new hiring guidelines and lifts its ban against hiring people living with HIV as Foreign Service Officers in February 2008, the parties negotiate a settlement and the case is closed.
Thomas W. Ude, Jr.