Boss Disclosed Personal Information

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss disclosing personal information:

I called in to be off work for personal reasons and my boss told everyone why. She also said she did not believe me. Is this legal?

Signed, Angry

Dear Angry:

Unless your boss disclosed protected information about a medical condition, and you can prove the condition and the disclosure, it is doubtful you have any legal recourse. It was, however, an unnecessary and inconsiderate thing to do under most circumstances I can think of.It sounds to me as though you need to talk to your boss and find out why she didn’t believe you, which will also let her know her comments were reported to you.

If she trusted you and you had a good relationship with her, I doubt she would have said anything. So, that is a big issue for you to work on with her.You might say, “Carol, I heard you said you didn’t believe me. That bothers me a lot because I don’t want you to think I would lie about it.”If you WERE lying about it, you might not want to take that on! But, if time off is allowed for personal reasons, without it being an illness, it shouldn’t matter what reason you gave.If you work in a business that is large enough to have an HR section, you may want to ask them about the time off policy and explain your situation. You may not want to do that if you think it will get back to the boss.If there is something much more to it than what you described, and if there is a pattern of mocking people who call in sick or similar negative things, then you would certainly want to take it higher in the company.But, given what you described, it probably will work well to come back and just focus on work.

Build such a good reputation with your coworkers and your boss that no one would ever question your honesty anyway. (I wonder if any of your friends stood up for you, since they obviously reported to you what was said?)Keep in mind that you were not there to hear exactly what she said. It might not have been as negative as you have been told.

Even if it was, your best response probably is to change her mind over time or at least not to add to her opinion.The fact is that many employees fudge on the truth to take time off and many bosses have heard every story there is. So, apart from talking to her directly and working on building a positive reputation, there probably is little you can do and little reason to worry about it right now. (Assuming you did not violate a rule that she can prove.) Move forward with your work and show through your actions that you are dependable. Don’t let this sour you on your work or on your boss, and give her a chance to rebuild her reputation with YOU, as well!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.