Do We Need to Notify Our Employees?
Question: We have an employee who was diagnosed with Hepatitis B. Do we have a legal obligation to alert other employees to be tested? Or, do we have a legal obligation to ensure privacy? What would be the best course of action?
Answer: Unless state law provides otherwise, the employer has no legal obligation to disclose the employee’s illness to other employees and could risk liability (under the ADA, or state or federal health privacy laws) if the employer does so. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Hepatitis B cannot be transmitted by “casual contact.”
Rather, the means of transmission is similar to that of the AIDS virus or HIV – that is, it requires the exchange of bodily fluids through sexual conduct or intravenous drug use. Since there would appear to be no health risk presented to this employer’s other employees, it would follow that there is no duty to disclose. In fact, the only legal obligation this employer may have in this situation is to protect the privacy rights of the ill employee.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with ACCA’s LegalTools Counsel, Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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