Bloomberg BNA is reporting that Baltimore County and the Department of Justice have entered into a consent decree wherein the County will pay $475,000 to settle the claims of 10 employees and applicants who alleged that they were sent for unnecessary medical examinations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act ("GINA").

The complaint filed in this action also alleges that employees were compelled to execute medical authorizations releasing all of their medical records.  The complaint further alleges that the employer often turned over Workers' Compensation records to the doctors conducting the medical examinations, even where those records were not relevant to the examination.

Hopefully, employers recognize that under the ADA regulations, an employer is limited to requesting medical examinations only where the examinations are job-related and consistent with business necessity.  What is equally important for employers to recognize is that breaches of confidentiality of medical records can result in big liability under the ADA and GINA. 

Confidentiality is also a hot topic in other areas of the law as several large class action lawsuits have been filed for HIPAA breaches.  If you're interested in reading more about how costly these actions are, check out our partner, Elizabeth Litten's July 31st blog about a $2.5 million settlement due to a HIPAA breach.

In short, the least amount of medical information necessary to evaluate an employee is what should be provided to examiners.  For example, if you have an employee being evaluated to see if he can perform the essential functions of his job after a shoulder injury, the examining doctor should not be given the medical records relating to his planter's wart being removed.

Employers should also review releases and any medical authorizations to insure that, pursuant to GINA, there is a notice provided to medical providers that they are not to disclose genetic information when releasing medical records.