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employer notified by insurance company
Feb 26, 1998

A patient was hospitalized for dehydration during his previously scheduled vacation time. He returned to work as planned. He did not discuss his hospitalization with any of his co-workers. A month later, the personnel director requested a meeting. The director notified the patient that his name appeared on the insurance company's report of employees who were hospitalized for a Hiv related problem. The director stated that the patient could notify his supervisor of his status, or the director could do this if the patient requested. The patient declined to tell anyone...is this legal? and what should the patient do? (thinks his supervisor was informed without his consent.)

Response from Ms. Franzoi

Although the personnel director had access to this information, he has no right to advise the employee's supervisor or anyone else of the employee's status without the employee's consent. Furthermore, he cannot direct the employee to advise his supervisor of his condition.

If the employee needs an accommodation in his work schedule or his work responsibilities because of his illness, then it might be necessary for the employee to discuss his health status with his supervisor in order for the accommodation to be made. However, even in cases where an individual is unable to perform certain functions, he only needs to present a note from his doctor indicating his limitations. The doctor does not need to state the nature of the illness to the employer. If the employer has doubts, he can send the employee to another doctor. This doctor can then advise the employer whether or not the limitation is justified. However, once again, there is no need for the employer to be advised of the employee's condition. In reality, doctors frequently indicate the diagnosis on notices to the employer of an individual's limitations or need to be off of work.

It should also be noted that utilization review providers and third party administrators for self-insured plans often provide the Benefits Department with reports that identify employees and their diagnoses. However, these reports are for administrative purpose only, not to be shared with supervisors or other individuals within the company.

With respect to what action the employee should take (other than refusing to advise anyone of his medical status if he doesn't want anyone to know), this should be referred to someone with more legal expertise.

Lynn Franzoi



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