Maintaining Privacy & Confidentiality

March 26, 2020

The onslaught of individuals receiving testing and the quick spread of COVID-19, as well as constant media coverage of the virus, has made the pandemic a constant source of conversation both in our personal lives and at work. This naturally leads to conversations in both settings related to medical conditions – our own, those of our families, and co-workers. If you haven’t done so already, now is a very good time to remind your employees, supervisors, and managers that it’s not appropriate to share or inquire about medical information in the workplace. While these conversations are typically well-intentioned, (“So-and-so needs to stay home, she has XYZ condition”), sharing this information about another is a violation of the ADA and inappropriate workplace conversation. Inquiring about medical information of a family member may be a violation of GINA as well.

What if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

Employers should be aware that if an employee discloses a medical condition, or their need for quarantine or that they have received a confirmed COVID-19 test, this information should be held confidentially just like any other medical information. According to the CDC, an employer may disclose an employee’s actual or probable COVID-19 diagnosis only to the extent necessary to adequately inform an employee of their potential workplace exposure or otherwise as directed by the CDC or Department of Health.

In almost all cases, this will mean disclosing only that there has been a diagnosis, without sharing identifying information and should always be done with discretion and in a fact-based way to avoid causing panic. There should be no speculation, and disclosure should be extremely limited.

Please contact our legal or member care team for help if you are facing this scenario.

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