Introduction and Legal Issue
Employees of an organization should expect for their health information to remain private. Just as the government has found it necessary to create laws to protect employees from discrimination, they have had to create laws to safeguard an employee’s protected health information (PHI). These laws include: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHAct). While each law explicitly protects employee health information, it also allows employers to use certain PHI to meet certain requirements of each law and to ensure the safety of employees.
What is Protected Health Information?
What is protected health information? According to Davis and Salver-Malyska, protected health information is defined as individually identified health information transmitted electronically or maintained or stored on any electronic media (2003, p. 31-32). In the United States the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows employers if acting as Plan Administrator to obtain certain PHI. There is no way around this, because the administrator must ask the employee’s doctor to complete certifications and provide back the employers. Companies that have an HMO and also have Workman Compensation, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Short-term and Long term Disability plans will require the doctor or the employee to provide medical certifications that support the need for the employee to be on leave or restricted duty. Under the FMLA, companies are required to also get PHI for an employee’s family member is the leave is requested to take care of a sick or injured family member.
Other types of PHI collected by employers include, pre-employee physical information, drug testing prior to employment and random testing. This information is required as part of the hiring process or company liability coverage depending on the nature of the business or
References: Colquitt, J. A., Lepine, J. A., & Wesson, M. J. (2009). Organizational Behavior;Improving Performance and Committment in the Workplace. New York: McGraw Hill. Cascio, W. F. (2010). Managing Human Resources: Productivity, Quality of Work Life, Profits. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Davis, V., & Silver-Malyska, T. (2003). Employers Liability for Use and Disclosure of Individual Health Information: HIPAA Privacy and Employer Functions. Benefits Law Journal, 16(2), 29-46.