As with many challenges in labor and employment law, HR professionals must take caution when dealing with issues indicating an employee’s substance misuse. This question is definitely worth asking…
One of our employees will be on leave while they go to rehab. What, if anything, should we tell the staff about the employee’s absence?
Federal law requires that you keep medical information you obtain confidential, so you should tell your staff only that the employee is out on leave. The employee’s direct manager or whoever does scheduling may need to know the expected duration of the leave, but very few, if any, managers or staff will need to know why the employee is on leave. Rehab, like other reasons for extended absences, may become fodder for gossip, so minimizing who knows the reason for the leave lowers the risk of those details becoming public.
If anyone comes to you with questions, you can remind them that, for the sake of everyone’s privacy, you don’t discuss any employee’s personal matters.