Should employees know that their coworkers are infected?
Sep 30, 2001
I am doing a report on the ethical issue of whether people in the workplace should be aware that their fellow coworkers are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. What is your opinion on this issue?
Response from Ms. Breuer
Good news. It's not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of law. Medical information in the workplace is confidential. An employer who has this information and shares it with the person's co-workers without permission is likely to lose any lawsuit brought by the person whose information has been revealed if it leads to discriminatory behavior. Curiosity and need to know are entirely different animals. Here's a good test: suppose YOU are the employee with HIV, and you know that there are some highly bigoted and poorly educated folks among your fellow workers. How would you vote?
That said, I think there's another issue lurking in here. Employees who have an HIV-infected co-worker absolutely should be receiving reliable, workplace-oriented information about HIV and AIDS, but everyone at work should, in my opinion. Uninformed or ill-informed co-workers can do awful things to someone they're afraid of.
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