I was greatly disturbed to hear my supervisor sent an inter office memo out to other staff members saying I will be out again tomorrow due to oral surgery for infected teeth. She had no right to disclose why I'm out sick and let everyone know I had infected teeth. Now I feel so humiliated.

Is she allowed to share this information with the office? Are there any privacy laws that she might be breaking?

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    Legal advise is off topic here, so voting to close. Also laws vary by location so even if this was on topic there would not be enough information to adequately answer. – Myles Oct 7 '15 at 17:44
  • @Myles While this is asking for legal advice, I think this falls under something that HR should know the answer to, and so would be on topic. See this Meta discussion for more details. – David K Oct 7 '15 at 18:02
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    Mary, where are you located? Employment and privacy laws will vary by country and state. – David K Oct 7 '15 at 18:07
  • Mary, this while your manager did step in it, he's probably not in the need to know either concerning why you are out, only that you are out (Take that last statement with a grain of salt; IANAL). If you want to, you could just mention "For a doctors/dentist appointment". I'm not defending him, but in the future, you may prevent the problem before it starts by not filling him in on the details. It's just my guess, but he probably just forwarded your note to him about why you were out to the team so that they would be aware you weren't available. – Sidney Oct 7 '15 at 18:50

This is a legal question, so if you really want to pursue it, ask a lawyer.

However, I don't see any point in pursuing it, because the "damage" has already been done. I wouldn't expect there to be any real reprocussions besides some embarrassment, which won't go away except with time.

I think the only reasonable course of action is to tell your boss that you're actually kind of embarrassed by the email, so could they not disclose medical details in the future.


No, she absolutely was not allowed to do that.

If you would like to pursue the issue, go to HR. If you are deeply offended enough, your boss just opened the company to a lawsuit. Employers are not allowed to disclose medical information.

Your boss just completely stepped in it.

Here is a link I just found in a quick google that can give you some context.

It pertains to actual medical records, but your situation and this link are in the same league.

  • No, she absolutely was not allowed to do that. Do you say this based on your knowledge of her company policy or your knowledge of the law in the OPs country which hasn't been established? Or does American law suddenly apply everywhere? – Myles Oct 7 '15 at 19:26
  • @Myles Feel better now? – user2989297 Oct 7 '15 at 19:33
  • Not even American law, since HIPAA doesn't apply to non-healthcare providers. It might apply to a boss if they all work in a medical office. – thursdaysgeek Oct 7 '15 at 20:47
  • HIPPA does apply to employers. It is illegal for employers to share information about a person's healthcare. It is illegal for anyone to share medical information about you without prior authorization. – user2989297 Oct 7 '15 at 21:13
  • "The Privacy Rule does not protect your employment records, even if the information in those records is health-related. Generally, the Privacy Rule also does not apply to the actions of an employer, including the actions of a manager in your workplace." hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/… – thursdaysgeek Oct 7 '15 at 22:18

You should address this issue first with your supervisor and then with HR. In the US at least, this would not be something the supervisor should be doing.

You need to directly talk to your supervisor, tell him or her that you were upset at your medical privacy being violated and ask specifically that it not happen again.

It is too late to undo this instance, but if it upsets you enough, you should talk to HR about it as this type of thing is something that companies are generally very careful to avoid. Only people who have an actual need to know the details of your medical issues (such as HR people who have to get medical accommodations approved and paid for or HR people who help you get short-term disability or supervisors who have to approve the time off (especially if the request is unusual like needing every Friday afternoon off to do dialysis) have a right to know exactly why you are out sick. Even supervisors generally don't need the details (although providing some generally gets these things approved much quicker and with less push back) but may need a doctor's note. Out sick is reason enough for people who have to take over your work while you are out.

You don't need to feel humiliated though, very few people really would find oral surgery to be odd or unusual.

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    Oral surgery becomes pretty universal as we get older, at least for those who can afford it and/or are on decent dental plans. Implants, gum grafts... – keshlam Oct 7 '15 at 18:43

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