We live in a privacy-oriented society. Information security breaches have highlighted costly errors for businesses and employers across the country like never before.
Personally identifiable information is any information that can be used to identify a specific person. Examples of PII include a person’s name, address, home phone number or email address, and Social Security number. It is important that PII be kept confidential because it can be used to damage a person, such as through identity theft or fraud.
As you might expect, an individual’s health information is entitled to an even greater level of protection than PII.
Employers sometimes have legitimate access to employee health information. For example, they may be able to request information to support a request for sick or family leave, they may have drug testing results, and they may have access to information about physicals or reasonable accommodation requests. Fortunately, however, California employees have extensive rights to privacy of the health information under both federal and state laws.
The essential requirements of these laws are that health information must be used only for the information it is obtained, and it must be held separately from other employment-related information.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, provides the base requirements for handling and sharing of patient health information. However, California laws add many additional confidentiality protections, with the following results:
- Employers who have employee health information must implement procedures designed to keep the information confidential and to prevent unauthorized disclosure.
- Employers may not use employee health information or allow their employees to do so unless the affected employee signs an authorization.
Here are some steps you can take as an employee to protect your protected health information:
- If you are not sure why your employer needs your health information, ask. Sometimes, employers follow outdated policies or use old forms and don’t really need all the information they request.
- Learn about laws and employer policies that apply to your protected health information. Ask that your information be purged or removed when possible.
- Keep your own health information at home or in a locked cabinet at work.
Sacramento, CA 95821