Settlement Reached in H.I.V., Tattoo Parlor Lawsuit

close up of gloved hand holding a tattoo needle to a person's skin

by Andy Jones
July 10, 2017

The Disability Law Center announced a settlement with a Utah tattoo parlor on June 22, ending the parlor’s exclusionary policy toward people who are H.I.V. positive.

On October 8, 2015, a now 27-year-old went to Six Feet Below to get a tattoo. The parlor first asked him to complete its standard release form, which, among other things, required customers to disclose whether they have been exposed to “any diseases, such as H.I.V.”

When J.H., as he is identified in court papers, disclosed his H.I.V. status, Six Feet Below refused to serve him.

On April 11, 2016, the Disability Law Center filed a lawsuit on J.H.’s behalf, asserting that the parlor’s blanket policy against serving people with H.I.V. violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Six Feet Below did not have any information tending to support its conclusion that J.H. was a direct threat or safety risk,” the lawsuit states. “Nor did Six Feet Below complete an objective, individualized assessment weighing the risks of giving J.H. a tattoo.

“Six Feet Below’s conclusion that J.H. was an excludable threat was based on irrational stigma associated with the H.I.V. infection, and upon mere stereotypes of individuals with H.I.V.”

Under the settlement, Six Feet Below will end its exclusionary policy. It will also donate $1,000 to the Utah Aids Foundation, to be used for education and outreach.

The Disability Law Center hopes the settlement will serve as a warning to similar establishments.

“The ADA forbids doctors, dentists, hospitals and other service providers who deal with needles and body fluids from denying service to people living with HIV, and a tattoo shop should be held to the same standard,” DLC Attorney Nick Jackson said in a news release.

Disability Rights Washington and the Disability Law Center are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Utah, respectively, and members of the National Disability Rights Network.