Illness Privacy

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about reason for going to the doctor:

Can my employer ask me why I’m going to the doctor?

Signed, Dear Why Is My Business

Dear Dear Why Is My Business:

We are not attorneys or Human Resource specialists, and your question is one concerning personal privacy that Federal and state policies address. You probably can respond in an ambiguous way if your think the matter is personal, possibly of a sexual nature or dealing with your plumbing. I recommend that you don’t respond negatively, “Sara, you are my boss, but this is my business, not yours.”

Rather if you don’t way to reveal why, you can be vague, “Sara, I’m sure you know that we each have to seek the advice of a doctor from time to time.” The resource below provides deals with prescription inquiries; however, it is somewhat of an answer to your question, but you can see that an answer to your question is not clear cut. Also you can inquire of your Human Resources what is the company policy or of your state’s Department of Labor. I would be interested in what you learn. Here’s an excerpt from “Does My Employer Have the Right to Ask Me What Prescriptions I Take? by Shailynn Krow, Demand Media Privacy and HIPAA “Some states allow an employer to contact an employee’s physician if her drug test comes back positive for prescription medications. For public employees, this is not a violation of privacy, according to Fair Measures, Inc. For private employees, the rules are different.

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, employers can request physician notes, but only to administer sick leave, health insurance or workers’ compensation. Employers cannot request health information about an employee from his physician without the employee’s authorization. HIPAA does not, however, protect your employment records only your health plan and other medical-related records.” What matters to your employer and to you is trust and goodwill; therefore, isn’t the important answer to your question not just a matter of law, but of respect; respect for you as a responsible individual who would not go to the doctor or ask to be absent from work unless you physically and/or emotionally needed to? If you are an employee who doesn’t have a pattern of absences and whose performance is good, your employer shouldn’t have to know why and possibly is simply asking out of concern for your health. In light of these considerations, you will have to weigh if you are being overly resentful about being asked why. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of suggesting that we are not machines but human beings with feelings and we work best when we as employees and employers communicate respecting each others concerns about whys that are back of almost everything.

William Gorden