EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADA: Confidentiality of Medical Information
February 26, 2002
This is in response to your January 25, 2002 e-mail to EEOC Commissioner Paul Steven Miller. You asked if sport entities would violate the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by providing you with self-reported numbers of individuals with disabilities employed within their organizations. You also asked why reporting disability data to the EEOC is not required under the ADA.
As you know, the EEOC enforces Title I of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et seq. Title I requires that covered entities keep medical-related information about all applicants and employees confidential with limited exceptions. See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(C); 29 C.F.R. § 1630.14(c)(1) & Appendix.
Sport entities would not violate the ADA by reporting statistical information to you, such as information about the numbers of individuals with disabilities employed by their organizations, as long as the information does not reveal names of individuals and is sufficiently broad so that it cannot be used to identify any particular individual with a disability. This is because the ADA's confidentiality provisions apply only to information "regarding the medical condition of an individual. 42 U.S.C. §12112(d)(3)(B); 29 C.F.R. §1630.14(b),(c) (emphasis added). So, for example, if many people occupy a particular job category in an employer's workforce, revealing that a certain number of them have disabilities is not likely to identify precisely who those individuals are.
We have reviewed the survey forms that you intend to use in your study. They appear to ask for information that is sufficiently broad in that it probably could not be used to identify a particular individual with a disability. Further, they do not ask for names of individuals. Therefore, the forms in general do not appear to violate the ADA. For instance, your "Pro Teams Form" asks for the number of players, office management, and support staff with disabilities. Since many individuals are included in each of these categories, it does not appear that revealing how many players, managers, and staff have disabilities and generally what type of disability they have will reveal that a particular individual has a disability. However, asking these questions in the context of a category with very few employees could be problematic.
The information that sport entities report to you, however, must have been obtained lawfully (e.g., from a valid post-offer medical examination or disability related inquiry, as the result of a request for reasonable accommodation, or through visual observation). An employer may not ask its employees to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities in order to report the information on the survey forms to you. Invitations to voluntarily self-identify as individuals with disabilities may only be extended to employees in connection with an employer's valid affirmative action program. See EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees under the Americans With Disabilities Act, at 34, question no. 23 (July 26, 2000)(enclosed). An employer who invited voluntary self-identification so that it could report the information for your study would not be engaging in affirmative action on behalf of individuals with disabilities.
You are correct that entities covered by Title I of the ADA are not currently required to report to the EEOC information about the number of their applicants and employees who have disabilities. As and I indicated to you in our phone conversation, this issue raises a number of complicated questions, such as whether reliable information could in fact be gathered by employers, and how it could effectively be used.
I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter is an informal discussion of the issues raised by you and is not an official opinion of the EEOC. In addition, our failure to address any other matters that may have been presented should not be construed as agreement with statements or analysis related to those matters.
Christopher J. Kuczynski
Assistant Legal Counsel
ADA Policy Division
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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