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Manager divulged private health info: Now what?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Q. We approved an employee to take FMLA leave to care for her seriously ill father. The problem is that her supervisor has shared the details of the dad’s illness with other employees. This is a breach of confidentiality. The employee has complained. What should happen to the supervisor? — L, Michigan

A. How employees are disciplined for failing to meet the expectations of their jobs varies quite a bit from organization to organization. You indicated in your email that you work for a public or quasi-public entity, which often means that discipline is administered according to formal protocols.

From a privacy standpoint, however, the supervisor should be counseled about his or her obligation to maintain as confidential the private information of employees. The ADA, in particular, imposes confidentiality rules on what managers can ask about and share about an employee’s medical status.

Supervisors are often unsure how much information they may share, so it’s best to arm them in advance with information on what they can and cannot say.

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