Blurring the line between employer and provider may be risky business for healthcare institutions. A regional healthcare system’s policy of accessing patient records of job applicants recently landed the system in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On September 26, 2012, the EEOC filed a complaint against Aurora Health Care, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, alleging that the healthcare system violated the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by rescinding a job offer to an applicant based on a review of information in her medical records when she had been a patient.

According to the complaint, the healthcare system offered the applicant a job as Registered Nurse Care Coordinator, contingent upon a medical examination. During the medical examination, the applicant was asked about a prescription that appeared in her medical records from when she was a patient at one of the system’s facilities. She explained that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had been prescribed the medication to treat that condition. The healthcare system then rescinded the job offer.

Although the ADA permits employers to condition job offers on post-offer medical examinations, the EEOC asserted that the healthcare system’s practice of checking its patient records in connection with post-offer medical examinations, which it called a Medication Reconciliation Policy, violated the ADA. While it is too early to tell whether courts will accept the EEOC’s position, healthcare providers should take note of the EEOC’s stance on accessing patient records as part of a post-offer medical exam.