If I am hurt at work and sent to a workers compensation doctor, is my boss allowed to tell my co-workers what my injuries are?

I fell and got hurt at work and had to go to the doctor. I heard from a co-worker that the boss was telling people that I hurt my back and made the suggestion that I did it on purpose because I have been laid off. This is not true. I slipped and fell on an oil spill. Doctor confirmed that I compressed a disc and have whiplash. I do not want to get into my personal medical details with my co-workers and I am extremely upset that my boss told people about it. Is this against the law?

Asked on September 6, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may have a claim for invasion of privacy against your boss.  One type of invasion of privacy is the public disclosure of private facts.  This would be applicable to a situation in which there is unwarranted publicity to matters concerning your private life which you are reasonably entitled to have withheld from public disclosure.  If the boss is disclosing your confidential medical records, you would have a stronger case.  It is questionable whether a statement that you hurt your back in response to someone asking why you are not there would be sufficient to support a claim for invasion of privacy.  That would be a very weak case.  Damages (monetary compensation) in a lawsuit for invasion of privacy would include mental distress.

As for the false statement that you hurt your back on purpose because you were laid off, that would be actionable as defamation.  Defamation is a false statement made with knowledge of its falsity communicated to a third person which is injurious to your reputation.  Libel is written defamation.  Slander is spoken defamation.  The boss would also be liable for each repetition of this false statement.  Since this false statement imputes characteristics incompatible with the conduct of your profession, you could recover damages (monetary compensation) in a lawsuit for defamation on items such as mental distress, loss of friends and associates resulting from the defamation,etc.

You would only file one lawsuit with separate causes of action (claims) for defamation and invasion of privacy.  Again, without further disclosure of confidential information by your  boss of your medical situtation, I think the invasion of privacy cause of action is very weak.  Your focus should be on the cause of action for defamation.

You will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter. 

 

 


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