Does HR Have to Keep Pregnancy Confidential?
HR should keep your pregnancy confidential from your coworkers. Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions are considered personal medical information. HR is an agent of your employer and shouldn’t share personal information about your pregnancy without your consent. If HR, co-workers or managers engage in derogatory remarks or jokes about your pregnancy, this could be pregnancy discrimination or harassment. You aren’t required to disclose your pregnancy except when you need pregnancy-related benefits or accommodations. However, it’s wise to disclose your situation so that you can exercise the rights available to pregnant women under local, state, and federal law. You should generally tell HR and your boss at least 30 days before you’re set to deliver, keeping in mind that some babies come early. You should give your employer reasonable time to prepare; for instance, your employer might need to start searching for a temp during your absence. HR may need to disclose your pregnancy to your supervisor or manager in order to arrange suitable accommodations or plan for your leave for childbirth. If HR did not keep your pregnancy confidential from coworkers, clients and others that did not need to know, and you were harmed as a result, you should call the seasoned New York City pregnancy discrimination lawyers of Phillips & Associates.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law protect against workplace pregnancy discrimination. Keep in mind, you may need to disclose confidential pregnancy or childbirth information to get leave for childbirth or exercise your rights under the Paid Family Leave Act and other state law benefits. Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on pregnancy if you never inform it about your pregnancy and it didn’t find out another way. However, you should be able to rely on your employer to keep this information confidential. Our lawyers offer free consultations if you are concerned that your employer’s lack of confidentiality resulted in workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation related to your pregnancy.
Confidentiality Under Federal, State, or Local Law
Under the New York City Human Rights Law, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations for your pregnancy when the accommodation would allow you to perform essential job requirements when it knew or should have known about it. This law covers employers with at least 4 employees.
You may need to provide medical information to allow your employer to figure out what accommodation would address your needs and what accommodation it could provide. HR and your employer will need to keep detailed logs of their efforts to start, engage and conclude a cooperative dialogue with you about a reasonable accommodation for your pregnancy, childbirth, or associated medical condition. However, this information should be kept confidential, as should any information or documentation from your employer.
Similarly, under the New York State Human Rights Law, your employer may need to provide a reasonable accommodation for your pregnancy, childbirth, or medical condition. This law covers every employer in the state. Moreover, your boss cannot force you to leave work during your pregnancy unless your pregnancy actually prevents you from doing your job. Again, HR should not disclose the information you provide to get the accommodation to other employees.
HR should keep pregnancy information confidential under federal laws too. Pregnancy is not in and of itself a disability under federal law. Among other possibilities, you may need to ask for a reasonable accommodation related to a medical condition caused by pregnancy. You should be able to get a reasonable accommodation under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act if your employer provides accommodations to those who are temporarily disabled by a condition other than pregnancy. To discuss whether you need accommodation and what type of accommodation would be appropriate, you may need to provide information about your pregnancy to HR. This information should be kept confidential.
Additionally, if your employer has at least 15 employees and your medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth counts as a disability under the ADA, your employer is supposed to keep your medical records confidential and separate from other personnel records. When you consult us, our lawyers will evaluate all circumstances surrounding a breach of confidentiality that resulted in discrimination or harassment.
Sometimes workers who learn sensitive information about another worker misuse the information to make derogatory comments or engage in other harassing conduct. Pregnancy harassment is illegal in every workplace in the city and the state of New York generally. Our attorneys can establish a hostile work environment if we can show you were subject to inferior terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of your pregnancy. You may be able to sue for damages if:
- HR gossiped to your coworker about your pregnancy, and your coworker began making jokes about your pregnancy or made derogatory remarks about the abilities of pregnant women.
- You asked HR for a reasonable accommodation, and HR denied your accommodation but told your supervisor you’d asked for one, and your supervisor began assigning you less prestigious assignments.
Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, your employer should also not use your confidential medical information to harass you or disclose it to others. The law prohibits harassment as a form of discrimination. You can hold your employer accountable if HR inappropriately announces your pregnancy to coworkers or others in the workplace, and as a result, you face severe or pervasive harassing conduct.
Your employer also has privacy obligations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if a group health plan is provided and the employer has 50 or more participants. Among other things, employers are supposed to protect your privacy by designating an in-house privacy official and adopting policies and procedures to ensure privacy.
Documenting HR’s Response to Your Pregnancy or Harassment
You should create contemporaneous documentation of any improper disclosures HR makes to your coworkers, or other people, related to your pregnancy. Similarly, if you are harassed because of your pregnancy and believe it is because HR did not keep your pregnancy confidential, you should keep a diary of those incidents. You should note the date and time of the incident and what happened.
Retain a Plaintiff’s Firm For a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit
If you’re wondering whether HR has to keep your pregnancy confidential in a New York City workplace, you should consult our seasoned employment discrimination attorneys about your situation. Phillips & Associates represents pregnant workers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Nassau County, or Suffolk County. Call us at tel:(866) 229-9441 or complete our online form for a free consultation.