11 Jun 2018

HIV-positive woman 'humiliated' after employer shares status

1:32 pm on 11 June 2018

An HIV-positive woman says she was humiliated when the early childhood centre she worked for door-knocked the homes of parents to inform them about her diagnosis.

A scientist holds three test tubes filled with blood in a laboratory.

Photo: 123RF

Gayle Jonker was diagnosed with HIV in 2011, and until now, her workplaces had been happy for her to speak to parents if they became aware and had questions about her diagnosis.

HIV can only be passed on through bodily fluids.

She moved to Cobden with her partner after he got a job in the area and starting working at Learning Adventures as a centre manager.

Ms Jonker said she informed her most recent employer of her HIV status as a courtesy, because she was going to be part of a public awareness campaign.

She is not required to do so.

But when she told the centre she was advised they would need to inform parents with information packs.

"The parents were wonderful and amazing and really good, the ones that had questions were really logical and that was the end of it, but for me it was really humiliating," she said.

However one of the parents became upset, because she had not received the information and heard it from someone else.

Evolve Education, which is the parent company of the centre, told Ms Jonker staff would need to visit parents at their home on the Friday evening.

The centre also posted her diagnosis on social media, Ms Jonker said, and they asked if they could disclose her diagnosis in their enrolment pack.

Ms Jonker said she was told if she had a cut, she would need to take annual or unpaid leave, despite being on medication and not being contagious.

Ms Jonker said she was then let go on day 88 of her 90-day trial, despite having had no serious employment problems raised with her in the past.

However, when management held a meeting with Ms Jonker, they told her they felt the relationship between her and the regional manager and support management was untenable.

"I had said in an email I felt unsafe, bullied and harassed, and they said the relationship was untenable and therefore they dismissed me," she said.

"The Friday I left work when they handed out the letters I was a mess, I said this is bullying and I had to leave," she said.

In a statement, Evolve Education chief executive Mark Finlay said Ms Jonker's HIV disclosure and the termination of her employment were completely unrelated.

"We can assure you that Evolve does not discriminate against anyone with HIV and respects all human rights," he said.