Question: What should we do about an employee with a terrible attendance record who appears to have a medical issue? I need to do something about this because other employees are noticing the problem when they have to do her work. What should I do if the employee wants to give me any medical details – isn’t that a violation of the HIPAA rules?
Answer: The best route to take with the employee is to have a private meeting and review the attendance problem that is affecting her performance. Keep the discussion based on the facts and the attendance expectations of the job. Let the employee know where she is not meeting the company expectations and ask for the employee’s feedback as to what she needs to do in order to get performance/attendance on track. Don’t bring up health issues. Wait until the employee brings up the medical situation to avoid any appearance of disability discrimination. If she does bring up health concerns, that is when you can politely say that you are well aware of the privacy issues under HIPAA and you will protect the privacy of any personal health information the employee chooses to share. Inform her that what you would really like to do if the employee needs some form of workplace accommodation is to give the employee a copy of her job description (or list of duties if there is no job description and outline physical requirements to perform those duties) that she can take to her treating physician. What you need to know from the physician are the medical accommodations that would be needed in order for her to perform the job. Once you have that list, you will work with the employee to determine what would be a reasonable accommodation that would not pose an undue hardship to the business.