Many people believe that their medical records – including their therapy records – are private and cannot be disclosed to anyone other than themselves and their health care provider. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
While health care providers are usually required to maintain the confidentiality of medical information, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule. For example, if an employee is involved in a legal dispute with a former employer, the employer may seek to obtain copies of the employee’s medical or therapy records. When this happens, courts are required to balance the employee’s constitutional right to privacy in his or her medical information with the employer’s right to obtain information that is directly relevant to a claim or defense in the litigation. In practice, this typically means that the employer is not entitled to review all of the employee’s entire medical history. However, a court may allow the employer to review records relating to a health concern that is at issue in the litigation, such as certain records relating to the employee’s disability or to treatment for emotional distress that the employee alleges was caused by the employer.
Because medical records may not be confidential, employees should generally avoid sharing any conversations that they have with a lawyer with their therapist or health care provider.
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