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  1. #1
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    My employer wants my personal health information!

    I have been working for the same company for 5 years and today the gave me a sheet to fill out that has all kinds of very personal health questions. On the top it said in accordance with the American disabilities act. They want to know everything from prescriptions I take to any surgery I had to treatment for mental health issues. It also says if I answer deceptively I can be denied workers comp. Now I don't take any prescriptions nor have I had any other medical condition besides a cold and chicken pox. But what about the people who have medical problems or take mental drugs or whatever. Don't they have a right to privacy. Are they legally allowed to make us give them this information? I work in a surgery center and everyone knows all the hippa laws. Couldn't someones health effect promotional decisions? Have any of you been asked to give up a full medical history after being hired? This is very invasive to me. For now I'm losing the paperwork in my locker. This is so 1984. Does anyone have any experience with this???

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  3. #2

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    From http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/q%26aeng02.htm:

    Q. How does the ADA affect workers' compensation programs?

    A. Only injured workers who meet the ADA's definition of an "individual with a disability" will be considered disabled under the ADA, regardless of whether they satisfy criteria for receiving benefits under workers' compensation or other disability laws. A worker also must be "qualified" (with or without reasonable accommodation) to be protected by the ADA. Work-related injuries do not always cause physical or mental impairments severe enough to "substantially limit" a major life activity. Also, many on-the-job injuries cause temporary impairments which heal within a short period of time with little or no long-term or permanent impact. Therefore, many injured workers who qualify for benefits under workers' compensation or other disability benefits laws may not be protected by the ADA. An employer must consider work-related injuries on a case-by-case basis to know if a worker is protected by the ADA.

    An employer may not inquire into an applicant's workers' compensation history before making a conditional offer of employment. After making a conditional job offer, an employer may inquire about a person's workers compensation history in a medical inquiry or examination that is required of all applicants in the same job category. However, even after a conditional offer has been made, an employer cannot require a potential employee to have a medical examination because a response to a medical inquiry (as opposed to results from a medical examination) shows a previous on-the-job injury unless all applicants in the same job category are required to have an examination. Also, an employer may not base an employment decision on the speculation that an applicant may cause increased workers' compensation costs in the future. However, an employer may refuse to hire, or may discharge an individual who is not currently able to perform a job without posing a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others, if the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.

    An employer may refuse to hire or may fire a person who knowingly provides a false answer to a lawful post-offer inquiry about his/her condition or worker's compensation history.

    An employer also may submit medical information and records concerning employees and applicants (obtained after a conditional job offer) to state workers' compensation offices and "second injury" funds without violating ADA confidentiality requirements.
    Looks legit. From that site there is some text regarding employers' responsibilities in segregating these medical records from other employee records. You may wish to read up on and inquire about, tactfully of course, those safeguards.

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  5. #3
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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    "After making a conditional job offer, an employer may inquire about a person's workers compensation history in a medical inquiry or examination that is required of all applicants in the same job category."

    This is all it says about an inquire.
    I think the phrase "conditional job offer" holds some relevance. I think it's referring to right after you get hired. When I was hired they asked for a drug test and a TB record. Also does inquire mean they can ask anything they want? I think they are abusing the system that is supposed to help employers make disabled people more comfortable. In an effort to have more legal ground in case of a workers comp claim. Would you give up your entire medical history?

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    I think you're reading a lot into the request. Of course I don't know what your employer is like, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to ask your HR rep some questions abotu this, provided you do it in a calm, friendly, respectful, and careful manner, right?

    The critical question you have, as I understand it, is whether or not there are appropriate safeguards around how this information is stored and used.

    I interpret the conditional job offer statement to mean that employers may not inquire about these matters until after the person has received an offer. I don't read any time limit into the phrase. The key word for me was "after".

    Anyway, good luck. Would I give up my entire medical history? I don't habla something for nothing in business, so the answer is "sure", once I understood how it was either to my advantage to do so or unacceptable not to do so.

    I know you haven't asked for my advice, but here's some: don't get mad, just ask questions. You can ask almost anything if you do it with a smile, and you're not a Fox News employee.

    One of my friends is the HR director for a company here in town. I'll try to give him a jingle this evening and see what I can find out.

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    I am asking for advice. And I appreciate getting it. And your right this pissis me off. I asked my supervisor what this is for and she said to fill it out because she said so (meaning she has no idea). The management at my company has gone down hill recently. The HR person is in another state and is incompetent. If I am disabled it is my responsibility to ask for accommodations. My medical history is information that should be shared between me and whom I specify unless it directly pertains to my ability to do my job or in regards to safety. Other then that it's an invasion of privacy.
    There are very strict privacy guidelines for healthcare providers under hippaa. For instance if there is a family member in a hospital room. We are not allowed to talk about thier medical condition without written consent. Another example is a nurse is not allowed to go into the waiting room and call out a patients name. They have to go by numbers now. All of these provisions for privacy and the employer can get whatever information they want? So the only people hippaa is protecting you from is your family and friends?

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Quick question:

    is there anything that you don't want to answer personally or is this a matter of principle for you?

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Quote Originally Posted by leejo View Post
    Quick question:

    is there anything that you don't want to answer personally or is this a matter of principle for you?
    Its principle mostly, but I don't want people in my office to know about my medical history. In fact I don't want it floating around anywhere.

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  15. #8

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    I am sitting here with an employment lawyer and a human resources employee at a large company in the state of Washington.

    Your profile says you're in Texas, so while the rules may be mildly different, I'm going to quote the lawyer verbatim here:

    "DO NOT FILL OUT THAT FORM UNTIL YOU HAVE SPOKEN WITH AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER."

    I do happen to have a disability, am taking prescription drugs, and may at some point require a "reasonable accomodation" at a workplace, though I have not, yet. While this gives me some experience with medical privacy rights, I have no personal experience with Texas law as it applies to medical privacy. HIPAA, however, is a national minimum standard, meaning states may only increase privacy, not decrease it.

    This means that even if the information they want to collect is legal, they must provide you with the full HIPAA protections that you are already aware of. This includes having a designated privacy officer, and written procedures on how they are going to securely store the information they are trying to collect from you, etc.

    That being said: none of the people sitting in the this room (2 lawyers, an HR supervisor, a disabled retiree, and an office manager) can think of a reason where, even if your HR department needed this information to settle a worker's comp claim in progress, your supervisor would have any legit reason to see your personal medical information. Not your supervisor, not your supervisor's supervisor.

    If this information was needed by the HR department, your company should have a policy in place to allow you to provide that information to the HR department in private. HIPAA even says you should be guaranteed a chance to request alternative methods of communicating information.

    You do have the right to ask specific questions about what this information is going to be used for, request restrictions on what this information is used for, etc.

    Bottom line: neither of the lawyers in here (one of them specializes in employment law) can come up with a reason that your supervisor would ever be legally allowed to see your answers to such a comprehensive questionnaire.

    Truck drivers may have to state what medications they're taking, because it relates directly to their job, but it sounds like you work in an office environment where knowing any past surgeries you've had is completely irrelevent.

    Talk to a lawyer. (and if you're feeling really froggy, PM me, I'd love to be able to fax a copy of this form to the employment lawyer here so they could determine if it's as egregiously illegal as it sounds).

    Of course, if your supervisor is a jerk, you may face retribution for not following their stupid illegal orders because dumb people hate it when you point out that they are wrong. You know your employment environment better than I do, but I would rather be on the winning end of a wrongful termination lawsuit against a surgery center in obvious violation of medical privacy laws than working for a supervisor who knows what medications I take every day and can use that against me.

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Switchcraft, Thank you for your post. You articulated everything I was thinking in a more legal way. I feel like I have a better floor to stand on with my supervisor. PM me your email or fax #and I'll scan the document and send it to you. I would very much like to know what a lawyer might say. I work with a lot of doctors and I can say that it is very difficult to find a good one unless you work with them personally. I'm assuming it's the same with lawyers.

    Are you saying they don't have the right to ask for this information, unless there is a workers comp claim in progress(or something of the sort)??? The main question is: What right does my company have to even ask for this?

    The form is a questionnaire about all past illnesses and all past medical issues. It is very specific. I wouldn't even tell my wife or mother those things.

    The papers were introduced to me in a hanging type folder that you would put in a filing cabinet. So I can pretty much say, they aren't being sent to the head office and will remain on the premises. That is unacceptable in any case. I'm going to see how this plays out with some other employees that I know will buck. If there is too much hate stirred up maybe my supervisor won't realize I haven't turned in the file. If I get pressed for it I'm going to call HR. If that doesn't work, I'm going to contact the CEO. I'm not going to give out my health information PERIOD. So if they want to fire me they can. Lawyers are expensive and difficult to find. If this scenario plays out all the way, at what point should I try to find a lawyer?

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Quote Originally Posted by Hambergler View Post
    The form is a questionnaire about all past illnesses and all past medical issues. It is very specific. I wouldn't even tell my wife or mother those things.
    I am not a lawyer, so don't listen to me. But no way.
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  21. #11

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    I PMed you my fax number, and I'll get that on to someone for an informal review.

    I'm not saying "they" can't legally ask you for it, I'm saying nobody here could think of a reason why your immediate supervisor should EVER have access to the information they are asking for.

    If this has to do with worker's comp stuff, in most places that would mean you would deal with the HR department directly. Why would your supervisor need to know about any possible past, current, or future workman's comp claims?

    Keeping your medical history, in a folder with many other people's, with no written security procedure to make sure only authorized people have access to it, appears to be illegal.

    Honestly, the point you should find a lawyer is the point where you feel adverse action is being against you in this situation. Call the HR department and find out what the policy is concerning this "survey." If anyone there understands what's going on, your pne phone call may make them panic and have someone withdraw the thing completely. If not, and they tell you you have to fill this out as a requirement of continued employment, etc., get the written policy concerning this information, and take it to an employment law firm.

    Take that information (if they provide that to you) along with the "survey" and go to an employment law firm (that doesn't represent your company, obviously) and ask for a consultation. A lawyer should be willing to sit with you and review what you have for free, and tell you what your next step should be. If he wants to work for you, make sure it's on contingency if you don't feel you can afford it. If it gets to that point, you're talking about damage to your career anyway, so you'll either want him recovering damages, or demanding at least the cost of your legal fees to fight their ridiculous request.

    Before it goes nearly that far, though: call the HR department and ask for the written policy. When you say you want the HIPAA guidelines on this information, someone should pee their pants and then it should be over, no harm no foul.

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    I'm wondering if your HR department are even aware of this form.

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    Thumbs up Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Quote Originally Posted by xTYBALTx View Post
    I am not a lawyer, so don't listen to me. But no way.

    What He said.

    good for you Ham for questioning this.

    Major props to Switchcraft big time.
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  27. #14

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    Well hold on. You may be entirely in the right here to refuse. And you employer may be entirely in the wrong when you are fired, but that won't change the fact that it will take several years to resolve any legal dispute. In the meantime, how will you eat and pay bills? When you're in interviews and are asked why you left your last position, how will you answer such that you aren't considered poison?

    This is why I asked how important this is to you. The more you assert your rights the more risk you accept of damaging beyond repair your relationship with your current employer.

    I'm not saying you are right or you are wrong to be upset or to assert yourself, but I think you need to be very careful and think tactically about how best to improve your situation.

    If you can speak to an atty about this matter, I would do that.

    I would start looking for another job immediately.

    And in the meantime, I would make every effort to be one charming pig at the office.

    I'm having lunch with my buddy today and will let you know what he says.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by leejo; 09-27-2006 at 11:37 AM.

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  29. #15

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    Re: My employer wants my personal health information!

    OK back from lunch.

    My friend says he believes that he understands what they are trying to do: gather information up front in order to understand and plan for 'reasonable accommodations' they may need to make. Your employer's reference to the ADA on the form seems to confirm this.

    He also said that he had never heard of a company being this aggressive in gathering the information, and was very uncomfortable about the request. At best, it's very insensitive: to have done this the right way, your employer should have explained up front what the information was for, how it would be protected, what it would not be used for. The request should have contained statements directing employees with questions and concerns to call a number, etc.

    At worst it's an illegal request.

    Like Switchcraft's friends, my buddy was very uncomfortable with this request. While one would think that your company would be well aware of HIPAA's requirements and would have run this request past corporate legal, it is also entirely possible that some ninny in HR came up with the idea and ran with it.

    At the end of the discussion we settled on 3 things we think you should consider doing:

    1) seek legal advice on this matter
    2) Do NOT get a chip on your shoulder
    3) ignore the current request

    1 and 2 are obvious I think. 3's goal is to see how the company reacts to your inaction. What you want is something in writing that explains the consequences of failing to complete the form. If and when you get that written explanation, make a copy and keep it in a file, then go to #1. If you ignore the request and never hear about it again, perfect. If you get an email or letter that links your completed form to your continued employment, bingo.

    To sum up, he believes that he understands what their goal is with this form, and it is a benign goal. However, he believes that your company is going about this in a manner that exposes them to some legal jeopardy, and that employees like you are entitled to a better explanation than "because I said so".

    I hope this all works out for you. What a pita.

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