EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
This is in response to your letter, dated May 13, 2004, in which you asked for confirmation of information I provided to you in a telephone conversation earlier that day. You called to ask whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required that you notify your employees that a coworker has Hepatitis C. Alternatively, you inquired whether it would be a violation of the ADA if your firm disclosed to its employees that a coworker has Hepatitis C. You are concerned that the employee with Hepatitis C might have transmitted the virus to coworkers if they shared the same plate or drinking glass.
The ADA contains no provision requiring employers to notify employees that a coworker has a disability. To the contrary, it prohibits employers from disclosing medical information about applicants and employees. [See 29 C.F.R. §1630.14(b), (c).] This information is considered confidential and an employer has an obligation under the ADA to safeguard it. The ADA lists several instances when an employer may share confidential medical information with others, for example, a supervisor may be told about a disability if there is a need to provide reasonable accommodation, or first aid and safety personnel may be given medical information if an employee's disability might require emergency treatment.
If you have concerns about the potential transmission of Hepatitis C (or any communicable disease), you should contact public health authorities that have the expertise to advise you about the nature of transmission and the risks. You could also contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 800-311-3435; 404-639-3534. The CDC and other public health authorities are in the best position to determine if there is a risk to coworker safety and recommend appropriate action.
I am enclosing materials from the CDC's website that explain how Hepatitis C is and is not transmitted. I am also enclosing the ADA regulations and the EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This letter is an informal discussion of the issues you raised and does not constitute an official opinion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, you may contact me at 202-663-4676.
Senior Attorney Advisor
Office of Legal Counsel
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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