Employee Rights Attorney
Mission Viejo, California
Q: “I have been employed by a large corporation for seven years. Recently, while having an annual physical, I was browsing through my medical records. I noticed that there were HIV test results from the date of hire. The report says the results were positive, but no one has told me. Also, I did not consent to the test.
“What legal course should I take?”
A: “Depending on the nature of employment, it is not unusual for a company to require employees to submit to an annual physical, especially if the job includes physical requirements, such as driving a truck. In fact, the company may have a duty to ensure the safety of its employees and the public.
“Apparently you consented to the physical exam but were not aware they were testing you for other conditions as well, such as for the antibodies to the human immuno deficiency virus. If you can prove it was not reasonably related to your job or you were misled about the scope of the test, you could have a claim for invasion of privacy. You might be prevented from pursuing your rights, however, because the violation occurred so long ago.
“You might have a stronger claim over the company’s failure to inform you of the results of the test. After all, the company’s inaction prevented you from seeking appropriate medical remedies to halt the spread of a disease whose effects are potentially fatal.
“You have valid legal arguments that the corporation, as your fiduciary, may have a duty to disclose this information. The company also may have had an implied contractual obligation to reasonably share the details of the test with you.
“Evaluate the company handbook. Does it discuss physical exams? Did the company give you a commitment to provide the results of the test?
“In addition, you may have a claim against any physician who supervised the laboratory that performed the testing. Regardless of who paid the doctor’s bill, you were the patient.
“The company would probably argue that you knew or should have known that the test was for the employer’s private purposes only. It also might contend that some people might not want to know about certain private information and that to disclose it to them without a request might cause them undue emotional distress.
“Aside from legal responsibilities, you could argue that the company has a moral obligation to disclose information that might save a person’s life.”