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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 118678
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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Can my boss ask me about my health condition Is that a violation

Resolved Question:

Can my boss ask me about my health condition? Is that a violation of HIPAA
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
Since the employer is neither an insurer or a medical care provider, they are not governed by HIPAA. There is nothing preventing an employer from enquiring about the employee's heath condition, especially if there may be some impact to the employee's abilty to work or the employee may require some reasonable accommodation to assist them in performing their job under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA simply prevents an employer from discrminating against you based upon your qualified disabilty (which is one that permanently impairs a major life function).

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I do not feel confident with your answer as you did not ask me any further questions. As a matter of fact I work for a mental health organization that provides treatment to adolescents. Since you did not seek out further information from I am not confident that are you willing to thoroughly investigate this matter.
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
The employer, even when it is a medical employer, wears multiple hats. As an employer, they can indeed inquire about the healt conditions of an employee. In fact, if an employee requires leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or requires reasonable accommodation under the ADA, the employer can even request medical reports from doctors to insure that the use of the leave or the accommodation is proper.

As a health care provider, it is not unlawful for them to ask about your health condition, it is unlawful for them to disclose your condition to others. HIPAA protects against disclosure by health providers and insurers, not from them asking about the information.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
When you say others who are you referring to? I know that my health condition was discussed among several people at my job. Is that a violation or no?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
If the employer discloses your health conditions to those who have no need to know, then it is a potential violation under HIPAA and the state medical records privacy laws. HIPAA provides no private right to action (you cannot sue personally under HIPAA) and the only recourse under HIPAA is to file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Hospitals which is the agency tasked with investigating HIPAA violations.

You may be able to file suit against them for releasing your confidential health information to those who had no need to know under the MA privacy of medical records law and you would sue for invasion of privacy and breach of confidentiality, since the employer should hold medical information about employees confidential and should not release it to other than those who have a legitimate need to know.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Ok so just for more clarity, I am a teacher at a residential treatment program for girls who have suffered complex trauma and mental illness. My medical condition was brought up during a meeting that I was not at and discussed by my boss, the therapists and residential staff. I have type I diabetes and all of them were discussing my methods of self care in relation to being in my classroom. So based on the members who were discussing it, is that a violation?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
I see no reason why this condition should be discussed in a meeting and it certainly appears to be a breach of your right to privacy.. I couldn't imagine any legitimate business purpose to have to discuss any employee's medical condition at a meeting.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I was told that it is because my actions could "trigger" the students. Is that justified?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
I still don't see that as a legitimate reason to disclose to the entire staff. I believe you have at the least a claim against them for invasion of privacy in discussing your medical condition. However, the amount of recovery on such a suit would be very low since you have not really suffered any significant damages (the economics of the law).

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
That's fine. Thank you for answering my question.