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My employer placed me under a follow up program(tested positive). This information was sent out in group emails to peers.

Long Beach, CA |

On more than one occasion, at least 3x, an email was sent to peers and other department managers, revealing that I was in the follow up program. Basically, every one knows my situation, and it's humiliating.

Attorney Answers 4


This action appears to be a serious violation of your privacy. At a minimum, you should put your concerns in writing and send them to your manager and the human resources department.

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There is a thing called "public disclosure of private facts" in the invasion of privacy world. The employer has no right to pass on this information about you. I would write to your employer and send a copy to human resources and/or the president of the company and tell them your did not authorize the disclosure of your private information and insist that this stop immediately. I would also express to them that this has hurt you emotionally and this has been humiliating. You may want to consult with an attorney on this or if this behavior continues.

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It would not be inappropriate for the information to be disseminated to those within the workplace who would be responsible for assuring your compliance with the follow up program. However, dissemination to others without a need to know is a violation of your privacy rights.

The tough thing now is to decide what you intend to do about it. While you might have a claim for invasion of privacy, you have not faced any financial losses caused by it, so your damages are somewhat undefinable. On the other hand, you have an employer that has demonstrated a willingness to work with you when it may well have been within its rights to simply terminate you.

Think long and hard before deciding to declare war on the employer. Good luck to you.

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It's tempting for attorneys who read this post to hear bells in their heads about privacy causes of action. But there are a significant number of potentially critical and determinative facts that you have not shared or considered here.

Your program, presumably pertinent to substance abuse of some sort, necessarily followed some sort of behavior that was visible to your employer. Was that behavior also visible and recognizable to co-workers? Did it occur at the workplace? Was it the sort of conduct that most employees would expect to have led to termination? You say "every one knows my situation." Is that solely because of the 3 emails by management, or did that occur in the first place by the conduct that got you into the testing?

If you were in an impaired state at your workplace, visible and recognizably impaired, or otherwise known to your co-workers to be UI, and your employer put you into a testing program rather than terminate you, and everyone knows about your situation because of your conduct and the fact that you were not fired for it, then you most likely do not have a sound and worthy privacy claim.

The other issue that needs explicit investigation is what -- if anything -- you signed when you agreed to the testing program -- if you did agree, presumably in exchange for not being fired. It is a growing trend among employers, particularly those in industries where any substance abuse raises potential industry-related dangerous workplace conditions, to require the affected (unterminated) employee to agree to disclosure in the workplace of the fact of the monitoring program. These employers view this disclosed information as a significant instructional objective for other employees. You can argue with that view, of course, but if you specifically agreed to it in order to avoid termination, you don't have sound actionable privacy claims now.

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Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall


Thanks for the email with the additional facts. It's good to know that my instincts re facts in these circumstances are still serving in my professional efforts. I was surprised, too, that the issues I raised were not identified by the other attorneys, but one of the best features of Avvo is the opportunity for the asker to receive multiple points of view reflecting different degrees and kinds of legal experience. Good luck to you!

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