My Manager Disclosed Personal Information

I was out of work for the remainder of the week starting Tuesday last week. I let my manager know that I had a very personal medical issue. Come to find out on my return to work that she had disclosed this information with the rest of my co workers without my permission. Is this a violation of a hippa law? –Signed Very Personal: 

Dear Very Personal: Because you ask a legal question, you should know our site responds to communication matters, but not those that are legal or medical. My answer to your question, therefore, is meant only to enable you to think through how to get an informed answer and how to deal with your apparent frustration about disclosure of health information you feel is private. To get a legal answer to your question, you need to know the privacy rules of your state and those that apply to your work organization. They are best learned from a labor attorney. 

Some resarch of HIPPA will explain that it’s regulations are narrow and apply to health information under health insurance plans of your workplace. Health information disclosed beyond that might not be considered as disclosure. Your most immediate source is your Human Relations Department.

As you might expect, you should be careful about the facts–about disclosure of medical condition that your manager shared with coworkers. Such a report to HR will likely be interpreted negatively by your manager. She might rationalize that because you revealed this medical matter to her that she didn’t think it was private. Before going to H.R., you might tell her of your discomfort about your personal medical condition becoming a topic of coworker conversation. Possibly she will apologize and offer go with you to HR to learn what might be done to correct this and prevent it from happening again. 

I forwarded your question to Dr. Mark Mindell, in light of his experience heading up Human Resources of several major companies. His prompt response is:

“It is unquestionably against the law for a manager to disclose, without direct consent from the employee, employee medical information of any type. I would suggest you go to HR and report this incident as soon as possible.  HR needs to know about this in order to take appropriate action to protect you and the company.”

I hope that you and your manager will come to a clear understanding about all this. The workplace needs trusting interpersonal communication. Mistakes, candidly confronted, can result in policies and practices that are understood and respected.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

Please update us on how this is handled. –William Gorden