Staffing Management

Employee Medical Information and Social Media

By Jon Hyman

Jun. 24, 2013

Hopefully, you know that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employee medical information as confidential. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

The basic rule is that with limited exceptions, employers must keep confidential any medical information they learn about an applicant or employee. Information can be confidential even if it contains no medical diagnosis or treatment course and even if it is not generated by a health care professional. For example, an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation would be considered medical information subject to the ADA’s confidentiality requirements.

What happens, however, when an employee suffers an on-the-job injury and a supervisor shares information about the injury on a Facebook wall or Twitter page? Or, what about when a supervisor posts about a co-workers illness? It can be as innocuous as, “I hope John Smith has a quick recovery from cancer,” or spiteful, like, “I can’t believe John Smith has cancer and I have his workload while he’s out on medical leave.” Regardless, these examples potentially implicate the ADA’s confidentiality provisions.

What can a company do to guard against this type of ADA violation? Businesses should build confidentiality protections into their social media policies. Just as companies should be reminding employees that employee medical information is confidential and should only be disseminated on a need-to-know basis, so should they carry over those protections to their social media policies.

Social media is informal and instantaneous. Employees often post before they think about the implications of what they are posting. I can almost guarantee that a violation of the ADA’s confidentiality protections is the furthest from a manager’s or supervisor’s mind when posting about a co-worker’s injury or medical issue. A policy statement—and, more importantly, some training—on this issue could save you a headache in a disability discrimination lawsuit down the road.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

What’s New at

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

Staffing Management

Managing employee time-off requests: A guide for business owners

Summary Vacation, sick time, PTO banks, and unpaid leave are only a few forms of employee time off — Mo...

workforce blog

Staffing Management

4 proven steps for tackling employee absenteeism

Summary Identifying the cause of employee absenteeism not only helps uncover deeper-rooted issues — Mor...

absence management, Employee scheduling software, predictive scheduling, shift bid, shift swapping

workforce blog

Staffing Management

Employee or contractor? 6 worker misclassification FAQs

Misclassification of employees as independent contractors led to overtime violations, according to a La...

compliance, Department of Labor, employee engagement, FLSA, HR technology, Worker misclassification