When it comes to your privacy rights as an employee, you expect that your employer will not share your personal medical information with others. But when that trust is broken, and you learn that your medical history or a medical event has been shared with coworkers, you may have legal rights to pursue.
This is a very real concern for many employees and employers as the battle of medical information looms over COVID-19. While employers are trying to inform employees of virus-related protocols, many employees fear their personal information will be shared with coworkers if they catch the virus.
It is more critical than ever to know what your rights are when it comes to medical privacy in the workplace. And we’re here to help you navigate.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Many of us think HIPAA compliance only relates to who we will allow a hospital or care facility to notify should something happen to us. But HIPAA also extends into your workplace rights.
Wherever you are employed, HIPAA ensures that your health information is not shared with anyone without your consent. Under HIPAA, all current, past, and future employees’ health privacy is protected.
The Privacy Rule controls how a health plan or a covered health care provider shares your health information with an employer.
Protected information includes:
- Information your doctors, nurses, and other health care providers put in your medical record
- Conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others
- Information about you in your health insurer’s computer system
- Billing information about you at your clinic
- Most other health information about you held by those who must follow these laws
It is important to know that your employer can ask you for a doctor’s note or other health information if it pertains to sick leave, workers’ compensation, wellness programs, or health insurance. However, your employer is not permitted to directly ask your healthcare providers about you without authorization from you to do so.
Those who do have to follow HIPAA rules include:
- Life insurers
- Workers’ compensation carriers
- Most schools and school districts
- Many state agencies like child protective service agencies
- Most law enforcement agencies
- Many municipal offices
Americans with Disabilities Act
If you have a disability, it’s important you know what information your employer is and is not entitled to share as it pertains to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Such employment and health-related information your employer must maintain confidentiality with include:
- medical exams required to start a new job or return to work after an injury
- medical information an employee voluntarily discloses as part of a health program
The ADA doesn’t specify the precise measures an employer must take to maintain confidentiality. Some employers may use separate filing cabinets for healthcare information or may have different password-protected accounts that only those of approved status can access.
Under certain circumstances, the ADA allows employers to disclose disability-related medical information to:
- Emergency and first-aid personnel if an accident occurs
- Supervisors and managers for information about restrictions on your job duties or ability to work, as to provide reasonable accommodations
- Government officials who evaluating your employers ADA compliance
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Under this act, you have the right to know what information is contained in your collected government files and to challenge the accuracy of those records if need be.
State Confidentiality Codes
In addition to the federally mandated privacy protections you are afforded, states may also have their own confidentiality codes which employers must adhere to.
These laws may include consent, confidentiality, patient information and more.
My employer has shared my medical information with my coworkers. What are my rights?
If you have contracted COVID-19, your employer must notify other employers that they may have come in contact with the virus. However, when their knowing impacts your ability to work and thrive, you have legal rights.
Contact us today if you have concerns surrounding your medical privacy and COVID-19. Our lawyers are across the country waiting to take your call.