In California, employers are generally prohibited from disclosing a worker’s medical information to other employees. State laws provide important safeguards to protect employee privacy. However, there are a few exceptions.
The CMIA is a state law that governs the confidentiality of medical information. It applies to healthcare providers, healthcare service plans, contractors, and employers that receive or maintain medical information. According to the CMIA, employers must maintain the confidentiality of medical information obtained in connection with employment and are generally prohibited from disclosing such information to other employees.
The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including protecting the privacy of their medical information. While the ADA does not explicitly address the issue of disclosure of medical information to other employees, it requires employers to keep such information confidential and separate from general personnel files.
The FMLA is a federal law that provides eligible employees with protected leave for qualifying medical and family reasons. Under the FMLA, employers are required to maintain the confidentiality of any medical or personal information obtained during the administration of FMLA leave. This includes the reason for the leave and medical conditions. Employees who do not have a legitimate business reason to know about the specific details of an employee’s FMLA leave should not be informed.
Under the PDA and other anti-discrimination laws, employers are required to treat pregnancy-related information as confidential. This means that an employer should not disclose an employee’s pregnancy to coworkers, supervisors, or other employees without the employee’s explicit consent.
GINA emphasizes the importance of maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of genetic information. Employers are required to keep genetic information confidential and separate from personnel files. They are also prohibited from disclosing genetic information except under specific circumstances, such as when required by law or when providing the information to the employee or their healthcare provider.
Despite the general rule of confidentiality, there are certain exceptions where an employer may disclose medical information to other employees. These exceptions include the following:
In situations where an employee’s medical condition requires immediate attention, limited disclosure of medical information may be necessary to protect the individual’s health and safety.
Employers may need to share relevant medical information with supervisors or managers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. However, such disclosures should be limited to what is necessary for the accommodation process.
If there are legal requirements or obligations to report certain medical conditions, such as communicable diseases, employers may disclose limited medical information to public health authorities or other relevant entities.
If you believe that your employer has violated your privacy rights by disclosing confidential medical information without your consent, there are several potential legal recourse options you may consider:
Start by addressing the issue internally within your organization. Speak with your supervisor or HR department to express your concerns and seek a resolution.
If you are unsatisfied with your company’s internal resolution, you can file a complaint with the state or federal agencies responsible for enforcing privacy laws. In California, the appropriate agency is the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). At the federal level, you can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies will investigate your complaint and, if deemed appropriate, may take legal action on your behalf.
Consult a trusted Orange County employment attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and guide you through the process of filing a complaint and/or lawsuit against your employer to seek compensation for any losses suffered.