Breach of Confidentiality?

I am a 'Department of One' as Human Resources Coordinator, and sometimes use assistance from personnel in another department. I have tasked one of those individuals to review the timesheets and where someone has three or more consecutive shifts on sick leave, I have her mail the ee a notice placing them on FMLA, the Certification form for their Health Care Provider to fill out and a job description.

My "assistant" has no knowledge of the nature of any given illness.

The Union is contending that ANY FMLA paperwork, including the above mentioned notices, is confidential and that I'm in violation of 29 CFR if the "assistant's" job description doesn't reflect HR duties.

Does anyone know if that is indeed the case?


  • 6 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • That doesn't quite make sense to me. Are they ok with the assistant knowing they are absent that much, but just not with the paperwork? I mean, it is no secret when an employee is out of the office. Is your work place so quiet that when people are gone only the manager knows whether it is vacation or sick?

    The assistant is following a protocol of supplying a form under certain circumstances. If I am reading you correctly, the assistant does not look at the returned form, or even know if they are returned.

    I think you should ask more questions. It sounds like you need better communication. The union might very well have a problem with this employee knowing that certain employees are absent for a certain number of days, even if they don't know why. Or it could be just a case of someone not understanding what the assistant does. The problem also might be resolved by using a different assistant, or changing the job description of the one you currently have. You need to understand exactly why they are concerned before you can address their issues and resolve the problem.

    Good luck!


  • Makes no sense to me either. An absence is an absence and doesn't really say anything in and of itself. I have never worked in a union situation, but I can't imagine that the contract can dictate such an insignificant detail or how you get your job done. As for the job description, if it includes a line referencing "other assigned duties," your helper JD is covered.

    best wishes.
  • This is not a breach of confidentiality and furthermore not even a union issue unless there is something specifically related to it in the contract. If I were you, I would tell whomever it is from the union that is bringing this issue forward to find the section in the regulations they feel you are in violation of and bring it to you for review. Further inform them at that time you will make the decision regarding whether or not it is a violation as that is a management decision, not a union one. One last thing, make sure to tell them that this is NOT to be done on company time.

    This sounds like another case of a union officer trying to obtain management rights - do NOT let this happen.
  • It didn't make sense to me either, but wanted to check with you gurus. Thanks for your answers!

    The assistant's JD does include the "other duties as assigned" language. I will make him locate the section of FMLA law that he says I'm violating.

  • I agree with others that there is nothing inappropriate about having your "assistant" send out the FMLA paperwork; but want to add a couple of other random thoughts. First, the union is citing a violation of statute, not the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Most CBA's define a grievance as a violation of a term of the CBA. So, even if you are in violation of FMLA regulations, unless your CBA provides the union the ability to grieve a statutory or regulatory violation, there is nothing for them to grieve. (Of course, the alternative of filing a complaint with DOL is not necessarily preferred.)

    Second, job descriptions do not have to include every last detail of an employee's job. Assuming that your "assistant's" job description includes administrative or clerical support duties, she is performing duties consistent with the description. You don't have to identify every form that she might process.
  • Thanks for your thoughts! I was more concerned about DOL than CBA violations on this one.

    My "assistant" actually works in Business Licensing. Is that a problem?
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