Photo/IllutrationA male plaintiff, center, holds a news conference in Sapporo after the ruling on Sept. 17. (Kenji Izawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SAPPORO--A court here ruled in favor of a man whose employment offer was rescinded because he did not disclose that he was HIV-positive.

The Sapporo District Court on Sept. 17 ordered Hokkaido Shakaijigyo Kyokai (Hokkaido social work association) to pay 1.65 million yen ($15,246) in compensation to the certified social worker, who is in his 30s and lives in Hokkaido.

The ruling stated that the man was under no obligation to disclose his HIV status, and further cited a medical viewpoint that anti-HIV medicine taken at an early stage of the disease can prevent the virus from spreading.

The man had sought 3.3 million yen in compensation from the association.

"I had thought there were no routes other than accepting the cancellation (of the employment offer)," he said. "This ruling represents a big step (forward)."

HIV is virus that can cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

According to the man's complaint, he received an informal employment offer from a hospital operated by the association in late December 2017 without mentioning in a job interview that he was infected with HIV.

Two weeks later, the hospital told him that it was aware he had received a diagnosis at the hospital and that his medical record showed he was infected.

The man denied that he was, but the hospital canceled its informal offer, saying, "It's difficult to establish a relation of trust with you."

However, the ruling said, "Even if the man did not tell the truth, canceling an informal decision to employ him is unacceptable," adding that there was virtually no risk of infection to others had he got the job.

Pointing out that prejudice and discrimination against HIV-infected people remains an issue in society, the ruling said that a potential employee is not obligated to reveal an infection at a job interview, and that the hospital's use of medical record information for other than the original purposes infringed on the man's privacy.

The social work association refused to comment on the ruling.

According to a survey by a support organization, about 20 percent of HIV-infected people have told workplace colleagues or employers that they have the virus.

Public awareness that HIV-infected people can prevent the spread of the virus to others by taking medicine remains low in Japan.

"I often feel anxiety about employment and sexual relations (because of my HIV status)," the man said at the news conference. "I hope workplaces will allow HIV-infected people to work without anxiety. Discrimination and prejudice remain an issue, but I hope that the social recognition (of HIV-infected people) will change over time."

(This article was written by Minami Endo and Kenji Izawa.)