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Shortell Law LLC files employment discrimination lawsuit against Alaska State Troopers and Beacon Occupational Health and Safety over rescission of a job offer to a job applicant living with HIV

Posted by Caitlin Shortell | Jun 08, 2023 | 0 Comments


Today, Shortell Law LLC filed suit in Anchorage Superior Court against James E. Cockrell, in his official capacity, Alaska State Troopers and Beacon Occupational Health and Safety. The Lawsuit alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Alaska State Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, the Alaska Human Rights Act, and alleges Defendants were negligent and caused Plaintiff damages.

Plaintiff “John Doe” is an individual living with HIV that is undetectable and untransmissible. He does not require an accommodation and is fully capable of performing the essential duties of the job. After Doe beat out hundreds of other applicants and received a conditional job offer, Alaska State Troopers rescinded the job offer based on discriminatory, outdated assumptions about his status as a person living with HIV.

Plaintiff is seeking several forms of relief in the lawsuit. First, Plaintiff seeks an order requiring the Alaska State Troopers to hire him as an Alaska State Trooper. In addition, Plaintiff seeks an order to stop Defendants from carrying out their unconstitutional and discriminatory practices to effectively bar HIV-positive applicants from serving at Alaska State Troopers. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Defendant Cockrell, acting in his official capacity, violated 42 U.S.C. §1983 and Plaintiff's constitutional right to equal protection of the laws, a declaratory judgment that Defendants AST and Beacon discriminated against Plaintiff, and a declaratory judgment that Defendants AST and Beacon were negligent. Plaintiff is also seeking an award of damages, costs, and attorney's fees.

“The Alaska State Troopers and Beacon Occupational Health and Safety discriminated against my client in rescinding a job offer made to my client, because he is able to perform all job duties associated with being a Trooper.” said Caitlin Shortell, owner and attorney at Shortell Law LLC. “Beacon Occupational Health and Safety, the medical testing provider, provided an assessment that he would need an accommodation and that there were reservations about his ability to do the job based on outdated science. There is no justification that can be used to deny Doe or anyone else with HIV the opportunity to join the Alaska State Troopers and to serve our state.”

The lawsuit also alleges that James E. Cockrell, as the governing authority for Alaska State Troopers,responsible for all hiring decisions, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the equal protection guarantees in the Alaska State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution that all persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws.

 ”My client is determined to serve as a law enforcement officer. He has worked and prepared to be in law enforcement since childhood,” said Shortell. “From volunteering with local law enforcement in his childhood, to his undergraduate sociology thesis topic on Law Enforcement, to his years of work experience as a flight attendant, a job focused on public safety, security, de-escalation, and teamwork, he was on his way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer when Alaska State Troopers and Beacon acted based on incorrect and discriminatory assumptions. Doe has HIV, and it is undetectable and untransmissible. It does not interfere with his ability to perform the duties of the job. People living with HIV want to serve in law enforcement. Even having faced discrimination, Doe is still committed to serving as an Alaska State Trooper.” said Caitlin Shortell from Shortell Law LLC.

“For years, the State of Alaska has been in the middle of a recruitment and retention crisis, especially in public safety. Given this reality, it is nonsensical that the Alaska State Troopers turned away John Doe, a healthy, fit, and fully capable applicant, just because he has HIV,” said Shortell. “Defendants' actions undermine efforts to build and maintain public safety in our state, and there's no scientific support for it. We will keep fighting until Alaska State Troopers and Beacon are ordered to stop discriminating against Doe and hire him into the position he was offered.”

“We ask this court to end Defendants unconstitutional discrimination against Doe based on his HIV-positive status, award damages, and order Alaska State Troopers to hire John Doe so he can become an Alaska State Trooper.” said Shortell.

Contact Information
Caitlin Shortell [email protected], 907 272-8181

The complaint for this lawsuit is available below.

Delete EditJohn-Doe-v.-AST-and-Beacon-Complaint.pdf

About the Author

Caitlin Shortell

Attorney Caitlin Shortell is a 2023 Super Lawyer in Labor and Employment, a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Civil Plaintiff's Lawyer in Alaska, and a 2023 YWCA Women of Achievement. 


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