The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to help protect the confidentiality of people who suffer from disabilities. If you currently suffer from a disability, then your medical records are protected under the ADA, and because of this protection any records that are in the care of current or former employers must be handled carefully.
Which Records are Covered under the ADA?
The ADA applies to all disability-related medical records that an employer might have access to from job-related exams, checkups or questionnaires. These records might include such things as annual checkups or examinations required by the employer to start or maintain a job. It does not, however, apply to medical records that don’t apply to disabilities.
According to the ADA, employers are required to keep disability-related medical records protected and stored in a different area than where other personnel records are stored. This is to ensure that these protected records are not accessible by anyone other than a few authorized individuals. While the specific methods of storage are not prescribed by the ADA, most places do this by keeping these records in a locked cabinet (if they are stored in a physical format) or behind a password-protected encrypted file (if stored digitally). However employers choose to protect these files, they must only be accessible by a few authorized personnel.
If you’re wondering who, exactly, can see these disability records, the list is rather small. Typically, access is restricted to those who might need to see your records to help ensure compliance with the ADA or administer medical care. These people include:
– first-aid givers and emergency responders who might need to know about your disabilities to administer medical care.
– your immediate supervisors, who might need to know about your disabilities and how they might impact your work.
– officials who might need to know your condition to help with compliance.
It is also important to note that these confidentiality exceptions are few and far between, and if something is not specifically listed, it’s assumed to be protected. For example, a subpoena in a lawsuit is not sufficient grounds to release these disability-related records, unless the employee agrees.
If your medical records are accidentally shared or disclosed, then you have some legal recourse. Consulting with a lawyer should be your first action in this case, as they can review your situation to see how strong of a case you have.
In any case, if you have questions or concerns about the ADA and your medical records, don’t hesitate to contact us today!