Worker sues Oak Harbor over HIV test publicity

An Oak Harbor Public Works employee is suing the city for allegedly violating her medical privacy rights regarding HIV testing.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, filed the complaint for damages against the city in Island County Superior Court Jan. 23. The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages for injury to her reputation, loss of wages and the cost of therapy, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.

The complaint states that Jane Doe works for the city as a solid waste collector. She was pressure washing a garbage truck and was stuck by a hypodermic needle. She immediately notified a supervisor. The fire chief was called and the woman was taken to the hospital for hepatitis and HIV testing, the court documents state.

After returning to work, the woman was approached by fellow employees who inquired about her HIV results. She discovered that city supervisors discussed her accident and medical information with more than 50 city employees and retirees during a Thanksgiving dinner put on by the public works department, the lawsuit alleges.

Moreover, the complaint states that one city employee called Jane Doe at home and asked her if she had told her spouse about the accident and testing.

“The inquiries into Jane Doe’s medical status continued for months and persist to this day,” the lawsuit states. “The information has spread to non-city employees and comments are made to Jane Doe when she is at the grocery store or leaves her house for any reason.”

The complaint alleges that city supervisors violated state law forbidding “disclosure of identity of person investigated or requesting HIV antibody testing” and by publishing a matter concerning the private life of another when the information would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.”

The lawsuit states that Jane Doe filed a notice of tort claim last November, but received no response.

Bill Hawkins, the Oak Harbor city attorney, said the lawsuit was forwarded to the city’s insurance provider, which will handle the litigation.


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