Supervisors Tentatively OK Law Banning Bias Against AIDS Victims
A divided Board of Supervisors tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday that would bar employers, landlords, schools and businesses in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County from discriminating against AIDS victims and those suspected of having the disease.
The supervisors adopted on a 3-2 vote a sweeping anti-discrimination law that makes it illegal to exclude from jobs and promotions AIDS victims, people with the AIDS virus and those an employer suspects might be infected.
It also prohibits denial of housing or consumer services to the same people.
The ordinance will be back before the board next week for a final vote.
‘Another 3-2 Vote’
Supervisor Deane Dana, who in recent years has often split with conservative colleagues Pete Schabarum and Mike Antonovich on health issues, provided the deciding vote Tuesday.
“Another 3-2 vote,” Dana aide Michael Pohndorff said, “but we got it.”
Antonovich argued against the ordinance, saying it duplicates state and federal anti-discrimination laws and would cost thousands of dollars a year to enforce. He recommended that the money be spent on hospices for victims of acquired immune deficiency syndrome and that the county refer discrimination cases to an existing mediation board.
Rand Schrader, vice chairman of the county Commission on AIDS, which recommended approval of the ordinance, acknowledged that existing law prohibits discrimination against AIDS victims. However, he said, the President’s Commission on AIDS has concluded that existing anti-discrimination laws are often ineffective and slow to be enforced.
The ordinance is needed to make the county’s position “clear and unequivocal,” Schrader told the board. “It creates no harm, but it does increase the clarity” of the law.
Board Chairman Ed Edelman agreed. “It’s important for this county to make a statement and make a statement very clearly that discrimination against people with AIDS . . . is not going to be tolerated.”
Los Angeles County, the home of the second-largest concentration of AIDS victims in the country behind New York City, has trailed a number of large California cities and counties in adopting an anti-discrimination law, Edelman said.
The county ordinance is modeled after a city law in Los Angeles that was adopted in 1985.
Under the county ordinance:
- Employers are not allowed to reject job applicants because they have or are suspected of having an AIDS-related illness. Nor can they demote or fire workers for those reasons.
- Employment agencies are prohibited from refusing to refer such people for jobs. Labor unions are prohibited from excluding them from membership and training programs.
- Landlords cannot refuse housing or evict tenants because they suffer, or might suffer, from AIDS. Exempted from this restriction would be housing where an owner or lessor or any family member shares the dwelling with the tenant.
- Businesses would not be allowed to deny “goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations” on grounds of AIDS.
- Educational institutions could not bar admission or impose different conditions on students because of fear of AIDS.
‘Damages and Costs’
Victims of AIDS discrimination could file lawsuits or obtain injunctions. Courts would award “actual damages and costs” to victims who could prove their rights were violated, the ordinance says. The county’s Dispute Resolution Program could also be used to settle disputes.
The new ordinance is important, Schrader said, because it provides AIDS victims, many of whom are “so defeated they don’t have strength” to file lawsuits, a quick method of resolving their complaints.