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Employment Law/Required Physicals on Employees

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Question
Our company employs nurses and paramedics as required for the service we provide. We require our medical staff members to have annual physicals for obvious reasons. We are considering extending this requirement to the non-medical staff members. I'd like to know whether we can require physicals of non-medical staff members.

This is being requested by our medical director. We had a recent (non-work related) employee death. Our medical staff are experienced and would likely offer aid in the event an employee becomes injured or suffers a serious health risk. The medical director feels that having some knowledge of employee health issues provides medical staff members with information to better care for the employee. This information would be restricted on an as needed basis only.

This is a precarious area to get in to -- I'd like to ensure we perform some preliminary research on this topic.

Thank you.

Answer
Anita - I can only give you a partial answer, and recommend that your company consult an attorney with regard to any NYS-specific rules about confidential medical information.

My reaction is that you are asking for trouble by maintaining such information about employees.  Confidentiality is a major concern, and it will be extremely difficult to maintain a secure enough system to prevent the leaking of medical information, especially if a person does need medical intervention on the job.  Claims of discrimination based on information in the medical files are a concern, and how do you prove that no one viewed the files?  I would suggest that you consider making the program voluntary, with a waiver form signed by the employee allowing the medical director to maintain the records and use them only in very specific circumstances.  Again, though, states have their own rules about confidential medical information, an area in which I am not knowledgeable.  I strongly recommend asking for a local attorney's opinion on your proposed actions.  

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Margaret M. deMarteleire

Expertise

I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.

Experience

Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Education/Credentials
Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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