Employee privacy trumps business interests

Arbitrator orders employer to stop asking for detailed medical information for short-term disability benefits
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

In a faceoff between an employer’s business interests and employee privacy, the British Columbia Arbitration Board has limited a B.C. company’s requirements for medical information while a privacy complaint is decided.

Accenture Business Services, a consulting and outsourcing company, had a sick leave policy where it required a medical certificate for absences of more than five working days. More than four of these absences in one year sometimes resulted in a request for a medical exam.

Usually, Accenture would ask for a medical certificate or examination on a case-by-case basis. However, on March 20, 2006, it developed a short-term disability plan with its benefits administrator that included a form asking for information such as primary and secondary diagnoses, symptoms, all test results and consultation reports, medications taken, history of similar conditions, pregnancy, current treatment and specialist reports.