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I am a M.A. in industrial/organizational psychology. Most of my experience has been in human resources and change management. My passion lies in employee assessment, organizational development and employee opinions. Website: www.IanMondrow.com LinkedIn Profile: http://linkd.in/drBYoC

Monday, October 25, 2010

Effective HR Strategies for Enhancing the Organizational Commitment of HIV-Positive Employees

Summary and Commentary by: Ian B. Mondrow, M.A.

Source: Fulford, M.D., Rothman, R. (2007). Effective HR strategies for enhancing the organizational commitment of HIV-positive employees. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communication and Conflict, 11(1), 91-103.

While there is an abundance of research on discrimination in the workplace, few studies examine the treatment of HIV-Positive (HIV+) personnel. The lack of research may be because HIV+ individuals do not differentiate in image, organizations do not view HIV-status as an area of concern, or HIV+ are not hired or retained (not terminated) if their status becomes public. In reality, HIV+ employees pose no threat to coworkers/customers through casual contact and their HIV-status will likely not affect their performance. It is also illegal to discriminate HIV+ employees/applicants as they are covered by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) if they are able to perform the job with or without reasonable accommodations.

Utilizing previous research and a focus group with 13 employed HIV+ employees, the researchers obtained a list of HR strategies addressed to increase organizational commitment of HIV+ employees.  Organizational commitment is a term that describes one's identification and involvement in their current company. Researchers have established organizational commitment as a psychological state. Through these methods, 18 policies were identified. These policies are listed at the end of this summary.

A survey was filled out by 64 participants, 50 of which identified as HIV+. The initial section of the survey measured the participant's organizational commitment. The second second listed the 18 HR strategies and asked the participant if his/her organization followed the policy and if it was implemented, would the policy increase his/her commitment.

Majority of the participants claimed that all but 3 policies were not in place at their current employer. 10 of the 18 policies were found to significantly affect organizational commitment*. For these scores, commitment was higher for organizations that followed the policy than those who did not follow the policy. The respondents felt that all 18 policies would likely increase their commitment to an organization if they were implemented. Even the lowest rated item (allowing HIV+ employees to take sabbaticals) had a score above neutral at 3.33 (out of 5).

The article did not state any limitations when it is obvious that future research can be improved. Future research can examine sexual orientation, race, or level in the organization. In addition, future research can examine the opinion of hiring managers or co-workers. This topic requires more coverage in the industry and it is an area that I would personally would love to research. Below are the policies identified. Policies written in blue were the items that respondents felt would increase their desire to stay at the organization. Items composed of red font were felt to be the least influential.

  1. Develop a culture that accommodates the special needs of HIV infected employees.*
  2. Gives employees the opportunity to be open about their infection.*
  3. Offer employee assistance programs for infected and non-infected employees and their loved ones.*
  4. Develop orientation, training, team building programs and workshops to help infected and non-infected employees work effectively together.*
  5. Offer the same medical benefits to all employees and their domestic partners regardless of their HIV Status.
  6. Allow infected employees to take medical leaves of absence so they do not use up all of their sick leave for treatment and recovery.*
  7. Allow infected employees a greater range of medical benefit options.
  8. Let infected employees work with a committee of their choice to develop flexible work strategies to the mutual benefit of the company and the employee.
  9. Schedule infected employees for a maximum 5/day/40 hour work week with two days off in a row.
  10. Allow infected employees a greater range of work options to meet their needs, including part-time, flex-time and work at home.*
  11. Allow infected employees to transfer positions as required by their illness.*
  12. Allow infected workers to take sabbaticals (for example, one out of every six years) to focus on other aspects of their lives.
  13. Provide full medical benefits to infected employees who were full-time but are forced by their illness to work part-time.
  14. Promote infected employees strictly on the basis of job performance rather than possible future health considerations.
  15. Ensures responsibilities are not taken away from infected employees unless the employee willingly renounces them or, can no longer perform them.*
  16. Empower infected employees to address issues of possible discrimination, harassment or hostile co-workers.*
  17. Audit managers to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of infected employees.*
  18. Ensure confidentiality regarding HIV related issues. 

*signifies that the policy was found to have statistical significance less than .05.

When it comes down to it, an individuals HIV-status should not be an employer's concern.  Not only is it illegal, but with today's advanced medications, his/her HIV-status will have little impact on performance. Finally, employees should have the option to be open about their HIV status without the fear of repercussion. This can prove difficult many individuals do not have all the background information on HIV and their lack of knowledge may cause rejection or fear. The best way to overcome this is to provide information on HIV to employees or provide them a list of resources.

The only exception to this rule is if the employee is working in a facility with a high risk of injury (i.e. exposure to bodily fluids). Regardless, all employees should be informed that they should not clean up any bodily fluids and if they are going to provide any first-aid, that they should always wear protective gloves (to protect themselves and the other individual). 

To donate to HIV research and education, please go to http://www.amfar.com/

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