Privacy Rights and Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance program to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages for employees who are injured at work or fall ill due to workplace conditions such as toxic fumes or contaminants. The no-fault system signifies that the injured/ill employee cannot sue the employer. In addition, the employer cannot sue the employee.
Typically, the employer will enlist an insurance provider to cover the state’s mandated workers’ compensation requirement. In Alaska, the system is overseen and regulated by the Division of Workers’ Compensation of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. With few exceptions, all employers with one or more employees must provide workers’ compensation.
From the employees’ perspective, sometimes the fear of an invasion of privacy arises when the injured or ill employee is out on leave to recover. Insurance companies, after all, are known to send out investigators to check on those receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The question is: How far can they go legally, or what are your rights as the injured/ill employee?
If you’re receiving or applying for workers’ compensation benefits in or around Anchorage, Alaska, and you have concerns that your privacy rights are in violation, contact the legal team at the Law Office of Justin S. Eppler, LLC. We will give your case personalized attention and strive to protect your rights under the law. We also proudly serve clients in Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, and Palmer, Alaska.
Privacy Concerns Surrounding Workers’ Compensation
Obviously, to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, you’re going to have to share sensitive and private health information with your employer and the insurance company overseeing the program for your employer. Your first concern is whether this information will remain safeguarded, private, and not become “public” information to your supervisor, coworkers, or others.
The other concern, as mentioned earlier, is that the insurance provider may start “spying” on you if you’re out on leave to recover. The law does allow private investigators to check whether you’re truly injured. If you’re out to recover from a back injury, for instance, and an investigator sees you at a nightclub where you’re seen dancing the night away, that can be used to question the need for your benefits.
Medical Information Protections
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides protection against the release of your medical information without your consent. When you present the information regarding your injury or illness to your employer and insurance provider, it must be kept secret for any purpose other than evaluating your claim.
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development states that “Medical or rehabilitation records in an employee’s file maintained by the [Workers’ Compensation] Board are not public records subject to public inspection or copying….”
Surveillance: How Far Can They Go?
Say you’re out recovering for a few weeks or longer, and the insurance company providing your benefits wants to ensure you’re unable to work. They can certainly start surveilling you.
The starting point is often social media. They can check your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok accounts to see if you’ve posted anything revealing. If you post something about the good time you had on your vacation to Cancun, you can imagine that that will become a red flag. The insurance company investigators can also try to befriend you and get you to say something that runs counter to your injury/illness claim.
As for physically tracking you, so long as they do so in public spaces, it’s perfectly legal. They can park out in front of your home and follow you. They can then get on foot and follow behind you into a shopping center and even into a church. All the while, they can snap photos or take videos. They can even question you without revealing their identity, and they can interview your neighbors and coworkers as well.
What they can’t do is trespass on your property or enter your home. Nor can they hack into your email or mobile phone. They also are not allowed to pose as any type of law enforcement official or place a tracking device on your car.
The point is that you have to monitor your activities and social media presence to make sure you don’t give investigators any reason to challenge your workers’ compensation claim.
Seek Trusted Legal Aid
If you feel your rights are being violated while on workers’ compensation in or around Anchorage, Alaska, contact us immediately at the Law Office of Justin S. Eppler, LLC. Our team knows the law inside and out and will work with you to protect your rights. Reach out to us with all your workers’ compensation questions and concerns, even when you’re first filing your claim. We will have your back and help you navigate the system.