Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lifting the Burden: On Money, Footwork, and Blessed Relief

As it turns out, my lovely daughter is taking the semester off from school, which means I have some extra money for the next few months. Isn't that nice?

What's more, I've decided to spend it on me. Specifically, on cleaning up my credit, and then socking away enough money for a small downpayment on a condo or small house. Prices and interest rates are low, and I'd like to take advantage of it.

My chaotic financial history is replete with the usual stuff and wreckage of addiction, even though I was sober when I was creating this mess. Unopened mail. Utilities turned off because I didn't have the money. or because I just forgot to pay the bills. It's probably the part of my life that's been most resistant to change. Likewise, it has brought me the most shame and misery. That, and the food thing.

I happen to know that some of my readers are very stable, sensible people who may not get it. Why not just take care of this shit so you don't have to worry so much? Just stop eating. Exercise, for god's sake. Quit bouncing checks. Pay your fucking bills, dumbass. Duh!

Of course, you're absolutely right, and I've known that all along. But I discovered that it's a lot easier to maintain good health than to try to regain it once it's ruined. I was hemorrhaging money, and I didn't know how to stop the bleeding. From late 2008 until the middle of 2011, there is not a single month in which I didn't have at least one overdraft. My average was about seven overdrafts per month, at $37 a pop. In my worst month, I had fourteen.  From December, 2008 until May, 2011 I spent $8,535 on overdraft charges for over 230 checks. Since May, 2011 I've had just one overdraft -- a slip-up in November.  My credit rating has gone up by about 60 points since then.

In any event, it took a shitload of time and effort and pain for me to get this patient stabilized, and now I've got an extra thousand bucks to toss around every month. I say this not to brag, but to express my suprise, relief, and gratitude for a turn-around that can only be described as miraculous. 

Anyway, this addict still thinks it would be a swell idea, now that things are in some sort of order, to shake things up a little and buy a house. That has led me to a realtor, who has led me to a very nice mortgage broker who told me I can't buy a  house until I get my credit up a little more, and then told me exactly what to do to fix it. Although he probably doesn't know it, he's showing me how to work steps four through nine around money.

So in the past three days, I've gotten into action. I've arranged for the release of a tax lien that was paid long ago, and I've settled four small accounts that were in collections. One of these transactions deserves special mention, and I'll post about that tomorrow. There is still much to do, and some of it is going to be tough.

In the meantime, though, it's a great start, and I'm pretty damned pleased with myself. I really, really am.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

HIV-positive man trounces the APD

Yesterday the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an HIV-positive man who sued the Atlanta Police Department for refusing to hire him based on his status. The APD doctor who conducted the pre-hire physical told the man – referred to in the lawsuit as Richard Roe – that the APD wouldn’t hire him because he is HIV-positive.  The doctor also advised the APD to prevent Roe from “physical contact or involvement with individuals.”   

Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? A doctor this misinformed to begin with, and then stupid enough to tell the job applicant the true reason for not hiring him?  What a maroon.

So, anyway, Roe sued the APD under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the APD motioned for summary judgment (a quickie dismissal, basically), saying that Roe hadn’t shown that he wasn’t a direct threat.  (I hate all these double negatives too, folks, but it’s correct because of the burden of proof).

The trial judge bought the APD’s argument, and then added its own garnish to this pile of bullshit. Roe, the court said, hadn’t even shown he was qualified for the job to begin with, apart from any medical issues. The trial court came up with this second issue all by itself, and didn’t bother telling the parties about it beforehand.  The court isn't supposed to do this sort of thing unless it provides notice to the parties. Without such notice, the appeals court noted, Roe felt ambushed.
The appeals court vacated the trial court’s opinion and ordered it to take another look at the case. Noting that the City had no policy against hiring HIV-positive applicants per se, and in fact had some  in its employ, the court said Roe had been “lulled” by the city into believing that his positive status itself is what disqualified him. Accordingly, Roe didn’t introduce evidence showing the trial court that his HIV-status was “non-dangerous.”

So, wait a minute. Roe has to prove he’s non-dangerous? Shouldn’t the burden be on the APD to show that Roe’s condition is dangerous? I mean, I know he’s the plaintiff, so he has the overall burden of proof, but… really?? (Yes, yes, I imagine it has something to do with that whole McDonnell-Douglas-burden-shifting thing. But frankly, it’s my blog, and I don’t care.).

Roe also challenged the validity of the pre-employment physical itself, since federal law requires a conditional job offer before such a medical examination is required. The court of appeals sided with Roe there, too, so he will have the opportunity to present this argument on remand.

It’s an interesting opinion and, of course, I’m pleased with the outcome. But don’t expect it to be a game-changer. The circuit court almost certainly thought the law was well-settled; this is evident by the fact that it issued an unpublished, per curiam opinion.  Unpublished opinions are considered “persuasive” only; they’re not binding on the court in future litigation. In any event,  this case will never appear in one of those big, fancy, expensive books that you see in all those lawyer TV commercials. Hence, proof that the case is not all that important.

Except, of course, to Roe. And anybody who's been discriminated against on the basis of HIV status. And the APD. And pretty much everybody else.
In other words, good news is good news, and any step in the right direction is a welcome thing.

You can read at he opinion here. The Washington Post article is here.