Saturday, April 26, 2008

Supervisor Improper and Reckless Disclosure

Many supervisors are not aware of the legal implications for disclosing personal and confidential information to others who do not have a right to know it. Personnel files are confidential. Medical files are confidential. And, of course EAP files are confidential. Which files are governed by the strictest confidentiality laws? You are right if you guessed EAP files. EAP files are governed by federal confidentiality laws in most cases when they manage alcohol and drug abuse related information and receive federal funding indirectly or directly. You would be surprised how many EAPs fall under this ruling. Most EAPs choose to be governed by these stricter laws or should declare that they follow these strict guidelines for managing information. A supervisor who discloses to other employees, or announces without authorization that an employee has gone to the EAP is not guilty of violating a confidentiality law, but reckless and improper discloser of personal information and violating the employee’s privacy. Of course these issues can kill your employee assistance program utilization. Supervisors who blab about employees referred to the EAP are damaging the perception of the EAP as a confidential service. And, they are holding themselves out at risk for a lawsuit for reckless and improper disclosure. Talk about these supervisor risks during supervisors training. It will help everyone -- employees, supervisors, and the EAP.