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current selection is Confidentiality
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Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
Drug-Free Workplace Advisor
Supervisor Training

Protecting Confidentiality

Employees will support and have faith in your drug-free workplace program only if their confidentiality is protected. The assurance of confidentiality means that an employee's private and personal information will not be released to anyone other than the person in whom the employee confides.

The following are several points regarding confidentiality that employees need to understand in order for supervisory referrals to be effective:

  • Problems will not be made public
  • Conversations with an EAP professional - or other referral agent - are private and will be protected
  • All information related to performance issues and disciplinary actions will be maintained in an employee's personnel file
  • Information about an employee's referral to treatment, however, will be kept separately
  • Information about treatment for addiction or mental illness is not a matter of public record and cannot be shared without a signed release from the employee
If EAP services are available, employees are also assured that:
  • EAP records are separate from personnel records and can be accessed only with a signed release from the employee
  • EAP professionals are bound by a code of ethics to protect the confidentiality of the employees and the family members that they serve
  • There are clear limits on when and what information the EAP professional can share and with whom

In some instances it may be in the employee's best interest for information to be shared; however, this information cannot be shared without a written release. Some examples of circumstances when an employee may request release of information include:

  • Accessing benefits or insurance companies conducting reviews. Usually, if reimbursement is requested from a third party payer, the request contains a waiver to confidentiality.
  • Informing the supervisor that the employee followed through with an EAP referral, when the employee was referred to an EAP by a supervisor based on declining job performance.
  • Supporting a request for accommodation or recovery support.
  • Following a positive drug test when the employee will be given an opportunity to return to the job.
  • Verifying release time, leave requests and disability.
There also are limited areas where the state may mandate disclosure. These are circumstances where someone is in imminent danger, such as in cases of:

  • child abuse
  • elder abuse
  • serious threats of homicide or suicide
The drug-free workplace policy and EAP policy, if applicable, must be very clear about the limits of what information can be shared and with whom it can be shared. If employees choose to tell coworkers about their private concerns, that is their decision. However, when an employee tells you--as a supervisor--something in confidence, you are obligated to protect that disclosure.