What can be done if an employer disclosed details of an employee’s medical treatment?

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What can be done if an employer disclosed details of an employee’s medical treatment?

My daughter, age 17, had an abortion. She is a lifeguard at a public pool. She could not work for 2 weeks following the procedure due to risk of infection. I told her direct boss the reason for her “excused” absence. I advised her direct boss,that  this has to be held at the greatest confidentiality. She agreed with me. We found out today,that  the park manager found out from my daughter’s direct boss, and discussed the abortion with general summer workers – one of which goes to school with my daughter. Isn’t there any kind of privacy law which they have to uphold?

Asked on August 31, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Since your daughter is a minor and a minor can't file a lawsuit herself, you would have to be appointed guardian ad litem to sue on behalf of your daughter.  You could sue the employer for invasion of privacy.  The type of invasion of privacy which would be applicable in this case is the public disclosure of private facts.  Your lawsuit for invasion of privacy should also include a separate cause of action (claim) for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Intentional infliction of emotional distress is an extreme and outrageous act intended to cause and which does cause emotional distress.  Depending on the facts, it may be difficult to prove intent on the part of the employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Under those circumstances, it may be preferable to include a cause of action (claim) for negligent infliction of emotional distress instead of intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Under negligent infliction of emotional distress, you would only need to prove that employer owed a duty of care not to disclose the information about your daughter, employer breached the duty of care by disclosing the information, and  the breach of the duty of care caused your daughter emotional distress.


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