Can my supervisor tell everyone why I was on FMLA?

I was recently several weeks pregnant and due to complications was out on FMLA. I advised HR and supervisors because it was a requirement of my absence. When I returned to work after a miscarriage, one of the team leads approached me to tell me congrats on my pregnancy. I was mortified and felt like everyone in office knew. I ended up being out again on FMLA for a few weeks due to anxiety of going to work and depression. Also upon return was suspended for 2 days for our in office attendance policy. There were 2 days I called in after the start of my normal shift but also have proof of days I called in on my normal days off. I was mentally in a very bad place but all my time off was FMLA approved. I just want to know what my rights are as far as privacy and also if disciplinary action for not calling in before the start of my shift is grounds for the suspension I received.

Rita Risser replies:

When your supervisor told one or more of your colleagues that you were pregnant, she may have violated several laws, including HIPAA and the FMLA, and possibly state law, which require employees’ medical information to be kept confidential. On the suspension, it is not clear what happened. If you were on FMLA leave, why were you required to call in every day? That’s not normal practice of most employers for FMLA leave. But the employer is allowed to have an attendance policy and enforce it equally against someone on FMLA leave, as long as everyone else is treated the same. If other employees are not suspended in these situations, you should check with the EEOC on that.

Posted 04-13-2016

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.