The ADA requires employers to maintain strict confidentiality on any medical- or disability-related information. That means keeping it in a separate, secure file, away from prying eyes that have no business viewing the information.
But confidentiality doesn’t apply just to paper or electronic records. Employers also have to make sure they don’t discuss such information with those who don’t need to know.
Recent case: Anthony Desano was a food service worker at Blossom South, a Rochester nursing home. Desano told his supervisor he couldn’t stay at work because his doctor told him he was “contaminated.”
Naturally, the supervisor wanted to know more because “contaminated” isn’t exactly a precise term. He was also a bit suspicious, since a busy time was coming up at work. He called Desano into a meeting with the HR staffer responsible for tracking leave, as well as a co-worker who sometimes served as acting supervisor.
During the meeting, Desano was asked to provide a doctor’s explanation. He did and it turned out that Desano was “contaminated” in the sense that he had a sinus infection. He was allowed to go home.
Desano then sued, alleging that Blossom South violated the ADA when it required him to provide medical information at the meeting.
But the court said there was no one at the meeting who didn’t have a need for the information. It threw out the case. (Desano v. Blossom South, No. 07-CV-6481, WD NY, 2009)
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