Medical Privacy in the Workplace

Photo credit: Micolas /

The first necessary element of understanding the phenomena of California’s laws related to medical privacy in the workplace is to define its basic element – medical records. These records that are related to a person’s medical history are made when the same person receives some kind of treatment from a health professional. These can include anyone from a physician or nurse, to a chiropractor or a psychiatrist. The same documents can cover, aside from the actual medical history, things like lifestyle choices like smoking or participating in high-risk activities like extreme sports, but also family medical history.

It is not rare that these include lab results, prescribed medications and results of a medical procedure that the same person has received. Any and all of these represent implications related to privacy for any employee if there is a chance the employer is accessing this information for some reason. If the same does occur, the law in the US state of California is triggered and here the key points of how this takes place.

Can Medical Records be Kept Private in the Workplace?

The law in California allows the employer to access medical information about their employee but it has to be related to a legitimate business reason. The information can be volunteered like in the case of sick leave or it can be requested for things like forms used for workers compensation claims. In any case, the information can be attained by the employer, but it both has to be related to the business and it has to be kept private inside of the same organization. This means that only those relevant to the case of the same individual can access this information.

Demanding Medical Test for Hiring a Person

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot ask for medical tests as a basis of getting a job. This means that tests cannot be asked for as a requirement for employment. The main reason why this clause exists in the problem of medical privacy in the workplace is the protection of employees from any kind of employee screening for disabilities or other similar issues. Additionally, the same act forbids anyone from demanding their employees to take a medical test as a way of avoiding them losing their job.

HIPAA and its Role in Medical Privacy

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, represents a standard that is valid nationwide and which regulates the problem of privacy of health information. In other words, it shows the employers how medical records are both disclosed and used. It states that employers have to give notice when dealing with written privacy procedures, restrict the use of this information inside of their organization and finally, it asks for the appointment of a dedicated privacy officer and the training of their staff on this issue.

With this information, anyone will be a lot more suited to understand any relevant issue related to medical privacy in the workplace. At the same time, this knowledge will allow them to better prepare themselves and protect their personal information in the same environment.