EVEN DISCLOSURE BY MISTAKE OF MED INFO IS ILLEGAL AND COMPENSABLE
Instead of sending an email notifying his supervisor that an employee had been taken to the hospital, a CBP manager sent all 118 co-workers at an Arizona station naming an employee and disclosing that he “had been transported to a medical center after experiencing rapid heartbeat and tightness in his chest and left hand.” The employee filed an EEOC complaint alleging that his private medical information had been illegally disclosed and asking for money damages.
CBP management refused to admit a violation or pay anything arguing it was an honest mistake, but EEOC wrote back that “where unauthorized disclosure of medical information is at issue, it is not necessary to prove the existence of a discriminatory motivation in order to establish a violation of the Rehabilitation Act; mere disclosure of such information without justification is enough.” Consequently, it found a violation and ordered Customs and Border Protection to reach a money settlement with the employee or bring the dispute back to EEOC for it to decide.
For more details, read Alan N., v. Mayorkas, Secretary, DHS (Customs and Border Protection), EEOC No. 2020001528 (2021)
Frankly, we wish the EEOC analysis had gone further to address whether the manager could even have told his own supervisor that the cause of the hospitalization seemed to be heart-related. The Rehabilitation Act prohibits disclosure of confidential medical information except in certain limited situations, including when managers need to be informed regarding necessary accommodations. The higher-level supervisor certainly had the right to know that someone was carted off the premises by an ambulance and perhaps that it did not seem to be due to a job-related injury. But as we read the regulation the CBP manager was not authorized to tell even his superiors the more private medical information. Check out Medical Privacy Quiz and She Is On Medications for very similar cases finding the manager was wrong sharing medical details with his superiors.