So, FMLA is confidential to your direct supervisor, your surrounding employees and many times other executives in the company. Unfortunately, your HR Director is the person responsible for handling the completed forms and may not be entirely confidential to them. However, as an HR Director, they are required to keep these types of proceeding confidential.
When an employee chooses to use FMLA, the employee’s medical information is required to be filed in a separate file other than their employee’s basic personnel file. The employer must keep a second, parallel personnel file which includes any information related to the FMLA request or other employee medical issues. When a supervisor or another employee besides the HR Director asks for the employee’s personnel file, the company is responsible to provide the file without the medical information and FMLA paperwork.
The first step to the FMLA process is to give your employer a fair notice that you are seeking FMLA medical leave. Inform them of the expected time and duration of the FMLA leave. At this step, it is not required to disclose the reason for the leave request. The employer may request certification of the employee’s health condition within 15 days of the initial request for leave.
Completing that form is key for confidentiality. The FMLA certification must be provided by a qualified health care provider or doctor. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a FMLA certification form that can help speed up the process. This form needs to be crafted carefully. Many medical physicians are properly instructed on how to fill these forms out by divulging as little as possible about your medical situation or the illness being treatment.
As part of the certification process, the employer will almost certainly obtain sensitive medical information regarding the employee but when the form is properly filled out, that information must be kept to a minimum when it is properly filled out by a doctor. The doctor will know exactly what is protected by HIPAA and what is required to divulge for FMLA.
When the employer requests to use FMLA, the employees right to privacy places strict limitations on how the information is treated, documented, and filed. Federal regulations require that information related to an FMLA leave request must be treated as “confidential medical records” and kept in “separate files/records from the usual personnel files.”