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We hear a worker is sick: What can we say?

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We recently heard from a co-worker that an employee (“Mike”) seemed to be having some health issues. Mike hasn’t said anything to his supervisor or anyone else as far as we know. What can we say? — M.D., Virginia

A. First, remember that employees may want to keep any possible health problems to themselves. Questioning them about their health could lead to a needless disability discrimination claim, as the employee may assume you believe he is disabled. As a general rule, employers should stick to performance and not worry about an employee’s health issues if the employee himself doesn’t raise concerns.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that employers shouldn’t encourage healthy behaviors among all employees. They just shouldn’t single out specific employees.

What should you tell the concerned employee? Remind him that “Mike” has the right to privacy and that his health is his own concern. Explain that all employees have received information about sick leave, the FMLA, the ADA and it’s up to individuals to seek out help if they want help.

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