Company Unlawfully Revealed Employee’s Medical Information, Federal Agency Says
MILWAUKEE – A major financial services company, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans of Appleton, Wis., violated federal law by making public a temporary employee’s confidential medical information, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC Chicago District Director John Rowe, whose jurisdiction includes Wisconsin, the agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that Thrivent violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) when it inquired about the employee’s medical condition and then revealed to prospective employers that he suffers from migraine headaches. Thrivent’s disclosures had a negative impact on the employee’s ability to obtain employment from those employers.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on disabilities. The EEOC filed suit after first trying to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the employee, in addition to an order requiring other relief and barring future discrimination. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, E.D. Wis. Civil Action No.10-C-853, was filed in federal district court in Milwaukee.
John Hendrickson, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which is responsible for EEOC litigation in Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, said, “Americans do not give up their privacy rights when they go to work. The ADA makes it clear that an employee’s medical information should remain confidential, and that employers should not be allowed to ruin an employee’s job prospects by revealing that sensitive information to other employers.”
On its web site, Thrivent describes itself as “the nation’s largest fraternal benefits society” and “a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organization nearly 2.6 million members strong. [It is] a Fortune 500 financial services organization with . . . more than $67 billion in assets under management.” Thrivent sells life insurance and other financial products and services. It ranks 342nd on the Fortune 500 based on 2009 revenue of $6.514 billion.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.