I work at a hospital. I am aware of HIPAA laws, but was wondering what are the laws concerning my records as an employee that Employee Health has? Are they permitted to talk to my manager regarding something that I called to discuss with them such as the possibility of having a disability? I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and am concerned with losing my job as I am about to be fired for tardiness and I feel it’s related to my diagnosis. I called Employee Health to discuss and found out that they turned around and called my manager about it. Have my rights been violated?
Ann Kiernan replies:
As far as I can tell from your question, HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, does not apply here, but the Americans with Disabilities Act does. Once an employee discloses that she has a disability and asks for help, as you have, the employer has a legal obligation to engage in an interactive process to see if there is a reasonable accommodation that can enable the employee to perform her job duties. That may be what Employee Health was doing in contacting your manager.
The Job Accommodation Network, a service of the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, has a number of suggestions on how people with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders might be accommodated at work at http://askjan.org/media/sleep.html. You may want to speak to your doctor, then work with your employer to see if there is an accommodation, such as change in starting time, that will enable you to be successful at work.
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