October 2016, Vol. 2

Collecting employee information for emergency purposes

Q: What type of employee information can a district collect to use in the event of an emergency? 

A: Most districts ask employees to complete a form that includes the name, address, and phone number of a personal contact to use in case of an emergency. The form may also ask for the employee’s doctor’s name and telephone number, as long as it is clear that providing the information is voluntary. Should the district (or a well-intentioned nurse) request more detailed medical information from employees on a campus, that may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibition on health inquiries. No district employee should request information regarding a disability, medical condition, or the medications another employee takes. 

The ADA permits employers to obtain and share medical information with first aid and safety personnel only if the disability or medical condition may require emergency medical treatment or special assistance during an evacuation or other similar medical emergency. 

To obtain information, an employer should follow the guidance provided by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
  • Ask all employees to voluntarily self-identify if they will require assistance because of a disability or medical condition. Ask what type of assistance is needed, and explain the purpose for requesting the information (e.g., to complete a specific form after a job offer is made or to periodically survey all current employees).
  • Explain that the information provided will be kept confidential and shared only with first aid and safety personnel.
  • Do not ask employees what prescription medications they are taking because this is not job-related or consistent with business necessity. 
  • Treat the information as a confidential medical record (i.e., keep it in a separate, locked cabinet apart from personnel files and limit access to a specific person or persons).
Additional information is available on the EEOC Website in the Fact Sheet on Obtaining & Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures