maintaining the privacy of employess in workplace is mandatory
Recently, numerous patients in a New York City co-op building found out that one of their employees had contracted Covid-19 while he was out sick. It’s concerning that they knew this despite being told by the superintendent that it was private. Then, a few weeks later, a different guy had the same thing: he went out with Covid and then came back to work, where he was immediately confronted by many tenants. This is what happened, he told them. One of them told him that she heard about his Covid diagnosis through a third party at the office. However, He just finished telling the boss. For some reason, he’s concerned about how and why this knowledge is spreading. Just what protections do we have under the law to make sure our medical records stay private?
Your supervisor is walking a thin line when it comes to Covid. There must be strict adherence to federal standards regarding the privacy of workers’ medical records. Employers must also advise employees (and in your case, maybe renters as well) of any associated risks with infectious illness exposure.
Matthew T. Bodie, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who teaches and writes on labor and employment law, stated, “Employers are in a somewhat difficult situation here.” They are attempting to control the spread of Covid at work while maintaining the privacy of their workers.
Your boss or co-op board may have warned staff and renters about Covid exposure. Would it compromise your privacy? What you told your supervisor and what he relayed determines the answer. Identifying you personally may have violated your ADA confidentially rights. Mr. Brodie noted some court judgments may not safeguard your privacy if you told your supervisor unprompted that you had Covid. If your coworkers informed others you had Covid, they would not be breaching your rights because they do not monitor you.
Even if your boss didn’t mention your name, if you’re the only one ill in a small business, workers or renters can find out who has Covid.
If you think you are confidentially breached, contact your union representative or the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, or New York City Human Rights Commission. Even if your rights have not been infringed, you may wish to discuss your privacy concerns with your supervisor and ask him to be discreet in the future.