Largest Postal Unions Sue to Block IG's Access to Medical Records

The two largest unions of United States Postal Service workers have filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York to stop the USPS inspector general's office from obtaining postal workers' medical records. The IG's office is investigating employees' use of leave, and it is giving health care providers a letter that states a worker's health information can and should be turned over without notifying the individual because the IG's office is a health oversight agency entitled to the information, adding that notice to the worker "would likely jeopardize our oversight activities." The two plaintiff unions in National Association of Letter Carriers, et al. v. United States Postal Service and United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, No. 08-CV 00458, together represent 482,000 USPS workers. Their lawsuit was filed Jan. 17.

William H. Young, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, wrote Sept. 27 to James C. Miller III, chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, saying he was "shocked" to learn that IG inspectors are obtaining workers' entire medical files with the letter. Privacy safeguards in the HIPAA law (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) forbid obtaining this data without notification of the employee, Young wrote. Wendy A. Hocking, secretary of the Board of Governors, responded with a letter dated Nov. 2 that said the IG office's actions are within its statutory authority, so the board will take no action.

The lawsuit says the IG's office started this practice in 2006. Previously, it acquired any personal medical information it needed from the workers, not their health care providers, the suit states. The current practice violates both HIPAA and the Privacy Act of 1974 and should be enjoined from continuing it, the lawsuit states.

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - May 2022

    May 2022

    Featuring:

    • WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY
      How Wearable Technology is Transforming Safety and the Industrial Workplace
    • TRAINING: CONFINED SPACES
      Five Tips to Improve Safety in Confined Spaces
    • INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE
      Monitor for Asbestos to Help Save Lives
    • PPE: FALL PROTECTION
      Fall Protection Can Be Surprising
    View This Issue