More On

Medical information not confidential if disclosed in response to general inquiry

Still, employers should exercise caution when responding to reference requests

In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the 7th Circuit found that the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) confidentiality requirement does not apply to medical information an employer learns about through means other than a medical exam or inquiry.

Gary Messier had been working for Thrivent as a temporary programmer, at the behest of technology consulting agency Omni Resources Inc., for almost four months without incident when he failed to show up for work one day. John Schreiner, Messier’s supervisor at Thrivent, contacted Omni Account Manager Thomas Brey, looking for Messier. Brey sent Messier the following email: “Gary, Give us a call, and give John a call. We need to know what is going on. John called here looking for you.”

Analyzing Email

In district court, the EEOC argued that Brey’s email to Messier constituted a medical inquiry. The district court found that it did not, because “given the vast number of reasons an employee could miss work without informing his employer, it seems unreasonable to assume that an employer checking in on his absent employee has the intent to request or acquire medical information.”

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.