Many federal employees know that their medical records have certain protections and certain information should only be shared in limited circumstances. When that information is improperly disclosed or maintained, the federal employees have a cause of action against the federal government.
However, many federal employees unfortunately say their HIPPA rights have been violated. Almost all of the time that is not the correct law because that law applies generally to medical providers not employers, the correct law is the Rehabilitation Act which provides limitations on the sharing of medical information and records.
Our federal employment attorneys settled a case recently where these allegations were one of the allegations.
The Rehabilitation Act requires that information regarding the medical condition or history of any employee shall be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and be treated as confidential. See e.g., 29 CFR 1630.14(b) (1):
(1) Information obtained under paragraph (b) of this section regarding the medical condition or history of the applicant shall be collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and be treated as a confidential medical record, except that:
(i) Supervisors and managers may be informed regarding necessary restrictions on the work or duties of the employee and necessary accommodations;
(ii) First aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if the disability might require emergency treatment; and
(iii) Government officials investigating compliance with this part shall be provided relevant information on request.
In turn, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found violations where medical information was kept in a personnel file, medical information as left lying on table, medical information was disclosed to the union, medical information was accessible in a database to multiple people, the Agency placed medical information in a Report of Investigation that was shared with other witnesses during the EEO process, a contractor was told that a federal employee was “on medication,” medical information was disclosed to a co-worker of the employee, other employees were provided with an OIG report that contained medical information, et cetera.
If you are a federal employee who believes their medical information has been improperly disclosed, contact our federal employment attorneys for a free consultation today.