ACLU Says Privacy Violations At Work Are Standard Operating Procedure

January 27, 1999 12:00 am

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STURGIS — Five weeks after starting a new job at a trade magazine, Joseph, an editor with years of experience, was fired by his employer for “incompetency,” Reuters newswire reported today.

But Joseph suspected that his dismissal had little to do with his professional capabilities and more to do with the fact that he had revealed information about a heart problem on a company life insurance policy, said Reuters.

Joseph was right, in what apparently happens “all the time,” Lewis Maltby, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Workplace Rights Project told Reuters.

“I’ve seen a number of situations where somebody gave sensitive medical information and the next thing you know the whole company knows and somebody gets fired,” Maltby told the newswire. “I think it happens all the time. Do you really think most benefits managers are going to sit on that information and not tell someone in the company?”

The magazine made Joseph an attractive financial settlement offer to drop the case after it was established that they had never even submitted his application to the insurer, Reuters said.

Reuters also reported that this is not an isolated occurrence and that a thick wall is needed to protect health data. Apparently many police officers spurn stress counseling from their departments for fear that “whatever they may confide can and will be used against them in pursuing their careers,” Joseph’s attorney told wire service.

Source: Reuters, January 27, 1999

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