Ask The Lawyer

By Debra Roth

Q & A Session – Employer Disclosing Medical/Private Information

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Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.

Q:

I was informed that my employer told a co-worker of mine that “I must be sad/mad that she is pregnant because I cannot have any kids.” Three years ago, I disclosed in private to my employer that I will be having surgery regarding my reproductive organs due to a recent illness. Never once did I say I could not have kids. Is there anything I can do?

A:

Can you prove that your employer released this private information or it just supposition on your part? Are you a federal employee? Was the information contained in an official agency record? The answers to these questions may reveal a potential violation of the Privacy Act.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.

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Comments

  1. BDubinsky Says:
    July 12th, 2012 at 8:17 am

    For Fed employees, an improper disclosure of medical info is a violation of the Rehab Act and 29 CFR 1614 et. seq.

    Take care

  2. LeeAnn Says:
    July 14th, 2012 at 8:33 am

    I do not believe that the law is as clear as one may think, nor that it is applied equally. I am a retired federal employee; just prior to retirement, I transitioned from Male to Female. A division chief in my organization (who was not a part of my management chain) chose to “out” me at a conference, questioning (in his customary loud voice) why I should be using the women’s rest room (for which I already had an agreement with the organizations director). The comments were made to the director, and the division chief chose to not follow the director’s guidance to “shut up”. I found out from 2 people who heard the exchange. It got worse, much. There was zero discipline taken against the division chief for revealing my medical situation, even after a formal investigation of other incidents perpetrated by this division chief and people that work for him. Being the target of a deliberate violation of my privacy rights, I can say that they mean little (my privacy rights) if management does not have the will to do something about the situation.