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Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Employers should remain mindful that employees’ medical information is confidential and should not be shared with others. If an employee tests positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19, the employer should not—under any circumstances—identify such employee. However, the employer can, and should, advise coworkers that an employee has tested positive, and should then follow the steps discussed above under the ADA and OSHA sections, including immediately physically separating the employee who has tested positive.

As you know, patients’ medical and health information (called “Protected Health Information” or PHI) is protected by HIPAA. The COVID-19 outbreak is raising new questions about employees’ rights to privacy under HIPAA and the protection of coworkers, customers, and others. Here is a quick breakdown on how an employer can comply with HIPAA and still keep other employees, customers and other persons safe.

The employer that chooses to make any disclosure of PHI without the employee’s authorization must make reasonable efforts to limit the amount of information disclosed to that which is the “minimum necessary” to accomplish the purpose.

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