Thursday, April 17, 2008

Remind Supervisors to Keep Mum

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. But which of these three are the most confidential and have the biggest fines if violated?

You are right if you guessed EAP files. EAP files are governed by federal confidentiality laws when they manage alcohol and drug abuse information and especially if they receive federal funding indirectly or directly. You would be surprised how many EAPs fall under this ruling. EAPs have to use a release for each person. Personnel and medical releases can employee blanket releases for more than one person. It's prohibited with EAP records management.

Most EAPs don't promote these nuances about confidentiality, and they should because doing so will help win more clients. All EAPs should declare that they follow these stricter guidelines for managing information. A supervisor who discloses to other employees, or announces without authorization that an employee has gone to the EAP is guilty not of violating a confidentiality law, but reckless and improper discloser and violating the employee’s privacy.

The Privacy Act protects privacy rights. Personal information and medical records and EAP records are covered by . 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. You can learn about the most comprehensive supervisor training ever produced for EAPs by going here.