Can I legally tell other staff the reason that an employee is out of the office?

Rita Risser Chai replies:

It depends on the reason they’re out. If they’re on vacation, I’m not aware of any law that says that is confidential information. And although there are laws that protect “medical information,” that has to do with medical records or information about a medical condition including mental illness and alcoholism. Saying someone is “out ill” probably does not violate the law, but saying “they’re in rehab” probably would. However, Fair Measures receives dozens and dozens of complaints every year from employees who feel their privacy has been invaded. For example, we’ve received complaints that employers told co-workers that employees were on vacation and where they went. Even though this may be legal, it upsets employees. So why upset them? The best practice is just to say the person is “out.”

Posted 09-11-2018

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.