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How should we handle documents containing info about employees’ medical conditions?

by on
in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. Our office received medical information from an employee’s physician in conjunction with his FMLA leave request. What’s the best way for us to maintain this kind of documentation?

A. Medical certification provided pursuant to a request for FMLA leave must provide:

  1. the date when the serious health condition began,
  2. the probable duration of the condition and
  3. the appropriate medical facts regarding the condition.

The FMLA provides that:

“Information ... regarding the medical condition or history of the applicant shall be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and be treated as a confidential medical record, except that: (i) super­visors and managers may be informed regarding necessary restrictions on the work ... and necessary accommodations; (ii) first aid and safety personnel may be informed ... if the disability might require emergency treatment; and (iii) gov­­ernment officials investigating compliance with this part shall be provided relevant information on request.”

Given those requirements, consider taking these steps:

  • Maintain medical information in a separate, locked cabinet or on a separate server.
  • Destroy paper and electronic medical records when no longer needed (three years for FMLA records).
  • Create policies on medical information confidentiality.
  • Avoid discussing medical information except when necessary for work-related purposes. Don’t discuss it outside work or where it might be overheard by those with no business need to know.
  • Don’t leave medical records unattended. Return them to their appropriate location after use. Cover documents containing medical information when not in use. Turn down computer screens displaying medical information. Use cover letters on faxes containing medical information.
  • Limit and track access to electronic records.

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