Is it legal for a current employer to disclose to other employees and someone calling for references that you were in drug rehab?

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Is it legal for a current employer to disclose to other employees and someone calling for references that you were in drug rehab?

My husband’s employer allowed him to go to outpatient rehab (3 months) but would not let him work during that time. Meanwhile, he put in for another job but never got called. My husband called to check on his application but was told that his employer disclosed that he had been in rehab, therefore they didn’t really want to hire him for the job.

Asked on May 3, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

This is most likely legal:

1) Outpatient rehab is not, I believe, protected or covered by the laws regarding privacy of medical information.

2) If there is no confidentiality agreement in place, someone may disclose anything of which they are aware, disclosure of which is not barrred by some specific law.

3) If the information disclosed is the truth, it is not defamation.

In short, while a good argument can be made that what the employer did was unprofessional and inappropriate, it is most likely legal.


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