Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I was informed that my employer told a co-worker of mine that “I must be sad/mad that she is pregnant because I cannot have any kids.” Three years ago, I disclosed in private to my employer that I will be having surgery regarding my reproductive organs due to a recent illness. Never once did I say I could not have kids. Is there anything I can do?
Can you prove that your employer released this private information or it just supposition on your part? Are you a federal employee? Was the information contained in an official agency record? The answers to these questions may reveal a potential violation of the Privacy Act.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
Disclaimer: Ask a Lawyer publishes information on this website for informational purposes only. Information on this website is intended – but not promised, guaranteed, or warranted – to reflect correct, complete and current developments. In addition, the contents of the website do not constitute legal advice and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the attorney. Information from this website is not intended to be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, nor should you consider it as such. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based on information on this website without seeking specific legal advice about your particular circumstances. No attorney-client relationship between you and Ask a Lawyer’s author is created by the transmission of information to or from this site.
For Fed employees, an improper disclosure of medical info is a violation of the Rehab Act and 29 CFR 1614 et. seq.
I do not believe that the law is as clear as one may think, nor that it is applied equally. I am a retired federal employee; just prior to retirement, I transitioned from Male to Female. A division chief in my organization (who was not a part of my management chain) chose to “out” me at a conference, questioning (in his customary loud voice) why I should be using the women’s rest room (for which I already had an agreement with the organizations director). The comments were made to the director, and the division chief chose to not follow the director’s guidance to “shut up”. I found out from 2 people who heard the exchange. It got worse, much. There was zero discipline taken against the division chief for revealing my medical situation, even after a formal investigation of other incidents perpetrated by this division chief and people that work for him. Being the target of a deliberate violation of my privacy rights, I can say that they mean little (my privacy rights) if management does not have the will to do something about the situation.