A recent federal court decision underscores the importance of ADA compliance and medical confidentiality.
In this case, an employer could end up being liable because an employee posted confidential medical information on her personal Facebook page. The company was sued by a former employee, who alleged the Facebook posting violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana rejected the company's motion to dismiss and the case is going forward.
The employee who posted the information on Facebook learned about the plaintiff's medical condition while preparing an accident report after he was injured on the job. She later posted a sarcastic comment on her Facebook page, comparing the plaintiff’s shoulder injury to the experience of another employee who returned to work a month after heart bypass surgery.
The plaintiff cited ADA requirements that information an employer obtains from a voluntary medical exam about the medical condition of an employee must be treated as confidential medical records. The employer filed a motion to dismiss, claiming in part that the medical information was already public because the plaintiff had filed a previous lawsuit revealing his medical condition five days before his former coworker posted her comments on Facebook.
The court determined the source of the employee’s information was a question of fact, and the motion to dismiss was denied. The case will proceed, raising the possibility that the company will be found liable for violating the ADA.
Clear company policies and proper training are necessary to help employees understand when and how to keep medical information private.