EEOC files suit over medical privacy
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing the operator of Hawaii's 7-Eleven stores, saying it improperly disclosed a Haleiwa employee's medical information.
The U.S. EEOC filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court, alleging that 7-Eleven of Hawaii Inc. violated the American Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act.
Robert Galam, formerly a sales associate at the 7-Eleven store in Haleiwa, says when he applied for a position at Turtle Bay Resort, his employer told Turtle Bay about his heart condition, which was confidential medical information.
He is seeking compensation for the losses that resulted from the disclosure of the information.
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing 7-Eleven of Hawaii Inc. and its parent company, 7-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd., alleging it disclosed an employee's confidential medical information.
The suit, filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, alleges that Seven Eleven violated Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Title 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
7-Eleven of Hawaii furnished employee Robert Galam's sensitive information regarding a heart condition to a prospective employer, Turtle Bay Resort, according to the suit.
The EEOC filed the suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. It is requesting a jury trial.
"This case illustrates one of the reasons why the ADA prohibits employers from disclosing confidential medical information," aid Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles district office. "Employees should not have to worry that this very sensitive and potentially harmful information will be used by prospective employers to unfairly exclude them from jobs that they could otherwise perform."
Blake Yokotake, human resources manager for 7-Eleven, declined to comment on the case yesterday, saying the company had not yet seen the lawsuit.
Galam worked as a sales associate for the 7-Eleven store in Haleiwa during two periods -- from January 2003 to September 2004. He resigned, but then went back to work for the store again in February 2005 until April.
It was in April that Galam applied for a position at Turtle Bay, and found out that the resort had called 7- Eleven and been provided with confidential information on his medical condition.
The EEOC is seeking compensation for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary (emotional pain, suffering, and mental anguish) losses resulting from the unlawful employment practices -- with the amount to be determined at trial.
Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC's Honolulu office, said it is common for these violations to occur during hiring.
"We see it a lot in the hiring process," said Riera, "where someone applies for a position and during the hiring process, the company inquires about their medical information or workers compensation information. That is a violation of the ADA. In this case, it involved an employee applying for a job with a prospective employer."
Employers can inquire about an existing medical condition after having given an applicant a conditional job offer, he said, as long as they do so with all applicants.
"Employers have a duty not to violate the trust that employees repose in them and respect the confidentiality of this very personal information," said Riera.