AIDS workplace policy adoption and implementation in local government: An analysis of departmental variation

Nancy Glasgow O'Neill, Florida International University


This is an empirical study whose purpose was to examine the process of innovation adoption as an adaptive response by a public organization and its subunits existing under varying degrees of environmental uncertainty. Meshing organization innovation research and contingency theory to form a theoretical framework, an exploratory case study design was undertaken in a large, metropolitan government located in an area with the fourth highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the country. A number of environmental and organizational factors were examined for their influence upon decision making in the adoption/non-adoption as well as implementation of any number of AIDS-related policies, practices, and programs. The major findings of the study are as follows. For the county government itself (macro level), no AIDS-specific workplace policies have been adopted. AIDS activities (AIDS education, AIDS Task Force, AIDS Coordinator, etc.), adopted county-wide early in the epidemic, have all been abandoned. Worker infection rates, in the aggregate and throughout the epidemic have been small. As a result, absent co-worker conflict (isolated and negligible), no increase in employee health care costs, no litigation regarding discrimination, and no major impact on workforce productivity, AIDS has basically become a non-issue at the strategic core of the organization. At the departmental level, policy adoption decisions varied widely. Here the predominant issue is occupational risk, i.e., both objective as well as perceived. As expected, more AIDS-related activities (policies, practices, and programs) were found in departments with workers known to have significant risk for exposure to the AIDS virus (fire rescue, medical examiner, police, etc.). AIDS specific policies, in the form of OSHA's Bloodborn Pathogen Standard, took place primarily because they were legislatively mandated. Union participation varied widely, although not necessarily based upon worker risk. In several departments, the union was a primary factor bringing about adoption decisions. Additional factors were identified and included organizational presence of AIDS expertise, availability of slack resources, and the existence of a policy champion. Other variables, such as subunit size, centralization of decision making, and formalization were not consistent factors explaining adoption decisions.

Subject Area

Public administration|Public health|Occupational safety

Recommended Citation

O'Neill, Nancy Glasgow, "AIDS workplace policy adoption and implementation in local government: An analysis of departmental variation" (1998). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9834963.