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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 118809
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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I was told that the medical division of my employer has the

Customer Question

I was told that the medical division of my employer has the right to share my private medical information as to why I took an FMLA with my direct supervisors for 'legitimate business reasons,' and it is therefore not private information under HIPAA law. Is that correct, and what constitutes a 'legitimate business reason' ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I meant an FMLA leave of absence.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Hello, My name is ***** ***** I will assist you today. Please give me a few minutes to write a response and identify any additional resources for you.

Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

It is very rare that employers actually have access to employee's medical records. For most instances where FMLA or Disability Reasonable Accommodation or any other type of medical question is being raised, the employer will provide the employee with a form specific to that issue to be completed by the employee's healthcare provider. This document then becomes part of the employee's employment file and not their medical record.

There may be times when the employer is in fact given access to the employee's medical record, but only with prior authorization from the employee - either through consent or through subpoena (in a litigated proceeding in court).

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do not understand what you are saying. At my employer, we must give a doctor's letter to the Medical Bureau stating what the reason is that we are taking a leave (our diagnosis). We must provide that letter in order to take the FMLA leave, otherwise we will be considered absent without permission and then fired after 20 days. I do not give my authorization for them to know, I have no choice. However, the Medical Bureau is not my direct supervisor as I work for an employer with over 100,000 employees. I want to know if my direct supervisor has a right to see that letter because the Medical Bureau says it is confidential, but now everyone is saying it becomes a part of my employment file, which then makes it not confidential because every supervisor in my local office will be able to see it and including secretaries if it goes into my employment file, which is kept at my local office. How is it possible that everyone is allowed to see my personal medical information at my local office ?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It is not my entire medical record, but a diagnosis is medical information.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

The Doctor's Letter is not a part of your medical record (HIPPA rules do not apply). Once you take that letter and provide it to your employer it becomes part of your employment file.

How your employer chooses to manage the employee files is something that is subject to its own internal policies and procedures.

Having employee files available to management at a local level is not uncommon.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
what you are saying is that no one actually has the right to keep their medical information private when they take an FMLA leave from their job ? So if the supervisors know, they can tell everyone in the office behind your back and that's OK? I find it very hard to believe that this can be true.
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

I didn't say anything about telling people (behind your back or otherwise), all that I said was that the information is part of your employment file and that this can be kept in your employee file.

Disclosing information in your employee file unnecessarily is another issue:

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It says in this link you sent me that employers cannot REQUIRE a diagnosis to be given to them in order to approve FMLA leave according to the Department of Labor, however, my employer DOES require a diagnosis and it is not voluntary to provide it. Does that mean I can sue my employer for this illegal practice?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

I would recommend consulting with a local employment law attorney prior to filing suit as there is often more to discuss than simply whether or not you provided something greater than what is required by statute. Most employment law attorneys provide a free consultation to discuss the merits of a potential claim and go over the details of your case.

But if your employer is requiring this information as opposed to your physician disclosing this independently, that may create a cause of action.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That is the whole issue from the beginning as I told you in the first place. My employer REQUIRES this information. My doctor is only disclosing it because I told him I have to. It says on the leave website that I MUST PROVIDE A DIAGNOSIS AND PROGNOSIS in the doctor's letter or my leave will not be approved. I never said my doctor disclosed any information just because he wanted to.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Where did you get that idea from?
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

Dear Customer,

It appears we are not communicating very well. I am going to opt out and allow someone else to assist you. There is no need to follow up at this time, you will receive another notification when another expert posts on your thread. There is no separate charge or fee to your account for this.

I wish you the best of luck with your matter.

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.
I am a DIFFERENT CONTRIBUTOR, as your previous expert has left.
Under FMLA and ADA, if the employee is making a request to the employer for relief under those laws, the employer can require medical reports from the employee's doctor that describes the condition and the prognosis and the accommodation or needs being requested. Under HIPAA, the only parties covered by the law are healthcare providers or healthcare insurers, so your employer is not a covered entity under HIPAA. However, your employer has a duty to keep your FMLA or ADA records and medical reports confidential, BUT may release information on a need to know basis to other employees, such as supervisors, for a legitimate business reason. A legitimate business reason is one that is necessary for that employee to properly do their job. For example, if you need some accommodation, your supervisor has a right and legitimate business reason to now what your accommodation is and the reason for your need. If it is to take time off of work, your supervisor has a legitimate right to know the reason for you taking off and to know it is not just you abusing your leave from work.
So, if a supervisor needs to know, for example, what your limitations are at work, they have a right to know why so they are informed as to your condition and they do not make you do something they should not be making you do.