In the wake of the recent outcry over Defense Secretary Loyd Austin’s decision not to disclose his hospitalization, Muskat Devine partner Corey Devine, in an article for the Society for Human Resource Management website, discusses the protections that employees in private employment may trigger when disclosing such matters to their employers.
Austin earlier this month failed to inform the White House that he was being hospitalized for a medical procedure.
Mr. Devine, however, recommends in comments to SHRM.org that workers disclose major medical issues “because that notice triggers most of the employment law protections that exist in private employment.”
He said workers can call upon protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or from state or local laws involving paid sick time.
Mr. Devine added that he has encountered cases in which employees don’t want to disclose that they are undergoing a medical procedure because they fear it might impact their employment opportunities.
In one instance, he said, an employee with a physically demanding job did not tell his bosses he was going to have knee replacement surgery. Instead, he used two weeks of paid time off. “He didn’t want to signal a problem,” Devine said.
While the employee thought he would be able to go back to his regular duties after two weeks, “of course it didn’t work that way,” Devine said.
While HR departments should offer a degree of privacy, he added, “The employer has to know what’s going on.”
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