Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can a coworker post my confidential information on a Facebook page? Does my employer have to keep information related a workplace injury confidential? Do I have to disclose information to my employer about my disability? How do I find the best Worker’s Compensation retaliation lawyer in Ohio?
When George Shoun, an employee of Best Formed Plastics, Inc., sustained an injury on the job in March 2012 he probably never imagined that the accident would lead to such dire consequences. In fact, most employees probably think that after sustaining an injury at work he or she will file a claim for Workers’ Compensation, take the time to recover, then return to work without issue. But as we’ve blogged about Worker’s Compensation retaliation before, many employers despise Workers’ Compensation claims due to expenses and being forced to accommodate an injured employee’s work restrictions. Instead of working with an injured employee to help ensure a full recovery, some employers make the unlawful choice to engage in Workers’ Compensation Retaliation.
Or, sometimes an employer will look for a different reason to terminate an injured worker or find different ways to harass the employee. Take George for instance. After George’s injury, he had to work with Jane Stewart, the employee who was responsible for processing Workers’ Compensation claims. In the process, George was required to provide information about the status of his treatment, and Jane learned a lot of information regarding George’s injury and his disability.
Pursuant to federal legislation in the Americans with Disabilities Act or “ADA,” Jane and the employer should have kept all medical information confidential. According to the ADA, the employer must make sure made sure that information related to George’s “voluntary medical examinations, including voluntary work histories, which are part of an employee health program available to employees at that work site,” were “collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and [be] treated as a confidential medical record.” At some point, George filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Best Formed Plastics, Inc., where information about his injury was made a matter of public record. Only five days later Jane posted information about George on her Facebook page, stating, “Isn’t [it] amazing how Jimmy experienced a 5 way heart bypass just one month ago and is back to work, especially when you consider George Shoun’s shoulder injury kept him away from work for 11 months and now he is trying to sue us.” According to the filings in George’s lawsuit, the Court refused to dismiss George’s claims because a question of fact exists regarding whether Jane learned about George’s confidential information solely through the employment related medical records. The Court held:
Best Formed Plastics notes that Mr. Shoun filed his state court complaint on February 14, 2013 and Ms. Stewart posted her comment on her Facebook page five days after Mr. Shoun’s public disclosure of his medical condition. Thus, the company says, Mr. Shoun voluntarily publicized his medical condition outside the context of an authorized employment-related medical examination or inquiry prior to Ms. Stewart’s Facebook comment, so Ms. Stewart’s alleged disclosure was nothing more than a mere recitation of facts previously disclosed to the public by Mr. Shoun. Best Formed Plastics concludes that based on Mr. Shoun’s voluntary disclosure, the company can’t be liable for violating the ADA’s confidentiality provisions, and Mr. Shoun isn’t entitled to the relief he seeks.
The cases relied on by Best Formed Plastics support the company’s argument that an employee’s voluntary disclosure of medical information outside the context of an authorized employment-related medical examination or inquiry can render the confidentiality requirements of the ADA inapplicable to the employer, but in those cases the plaintiff-employees volunteered their medical information to their employer or a co-employee. See EEOC v. C.R. England, Inc., 644 F.3d 1028, 1048 (10th Cir. 2011) (confidentiality provisions of ADA not violated because employee had “voluntarily disclosed to [employer’s human resources manager] that he was HIV-positive”); Cash v. Smith, 231 F.3d 1301, 1307 (11th Cir. 2000) (“[T]he disclosure that Cash complains of was not of the result of an examination ordered by [his employer], but of a voluntary disclosure that Cash made to Smith[, his supervisor].”); EEOC v. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, 795 F. Supp. 2d 840, 846 (E.D. Wis. 2011) (because employee voluntarily disclosed his medical history to his managers, not in response to a medical inquiry, the information was not subject to ADA confidentiality requirements); Kingston v. Ford Meter Box Co., Inc., No. 3:07-CV-270, 2009 WL 981333, at *10-*11 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 10, 2009) (no violation of ADA confidentiality provisions where plaintiff disclosed his medical condition to his supervisors when he wasn’t required to do so).
Neither side has alleged or argued that Mr. Shoun voluntarily disclosed his medical information to Ms. Stewart or anyone else at Best Formed Plastics; instead, Mr. Shoun alleges that Ms. Stewart acquired information about his medical condition through an employment-related medical inquiry by the company and then wrongfully disclosed that information. Whether Ms. Stewart gained knowledge of Mr. Shoun’s medical condition solely within the context of his employment-related medical examination is a question of fact not appropriate for resolution in a motion to dismiss. … Mr. Shoun has set forth facts sufficient to allege a violation of the confidentiality provisions of the ADA and the motion of Best Formed Plastics to dismiss for failure to state a claim will be denied.
The result is that George’s claims for violation of the ADA related to disclosure of his confidential information survive the employer’s motion to dismiss. Now the case can proceed to the next step, and likely continue to cost the employer a hefty expense in legal fees and create additional exposure to liability because George has alleged that Jane’s post has cost him potential employment with prospective employers. What started with an average claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits, has morphed into a multifaceted legal dispute. As we’ve blogged about before, situations relating to Disability Discrimination or Workers’ Compensation Retaliation. are more common than the average employee might think.
Having to live with a disability or work related injuryis difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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