Protecting Employee Medical Information
Keep in mind that both the FMLA and CFRA restrict how much medical information an employer can ask for, and sometimes demand, from an employee who is requesting a leave of absence. Be advised that it may be risky to call the medical provider directly to inquire as to the specifics of the certification that may have been provided. Furthermore, any information received must be maintained in a confidential manner. There are some easy guidelines to keep in mind. Follow these easy steps and they should keep you out of trouble.
1. Keep all medical information in a separate folder other than the personnel file.
2. Do not permit supervisors to access any medical records unless the inquiry is based upon the need to make an accommodation for a disability or manage their work force while an employee is out on a leave of absence.
3. If there is a disability insurance policy in place, obtain a signed release from the employee giving their healthcare provider permission to release the information.
4. Any time you (the employer) is trying to determine if an employee is eligible for a leave of absence under either the FMLA or CFRA, ask for a certification from the healthcare provider. If you feel the necessity to doubt the validity of the certification, you can ask for a second opinion at your expense. If the two reports conflict, you can get a third opinion.
Issues of safeguarding personal and medical information are escalating. Employers need to understand that the manner in which the information is kept is also a factor. File drawers need to have working locks to prevent unauthorized personnel from gaining access.