Contact Us Today!

Phone:  678-935-6001

Toll Free:  833-myHRnow

Fax:  678-935-1323

icon-gplus.png icon-linkedin.png icon-twitter.png icon-facebook.png icon-youtube.png

HR Confidentiality: What to Expect for Employers and Employees

Let's imagine that an employee gets upset with the behavior of his/her employer and in an effort to solve the issue, consults the company's HR representative. Is this conversation confidential? What rights do employers have to know what is discussed between the HR representative and employee, especially if it's involving the employer? Confidentially seems to be a cut and dried concept, but there are a lot of grey areas, and we want to cover those for you!

With HR being privy to a wide variety of information from the most confidential management decisions, all the way down to the day-to-day performance of employees, there are a lot of questions when it comes to confidentiality in the workplace. It's a delicate balance of following the law, being helpful, communicating with management, and maintaining trust with employees. It's a lot to juggle and dropping any of these balls can cause issues within the workplace.

What HR Keeps Confidential

Every HR representative is different, but there are several different levels of confidentiality needed. Here are some examples of what HR will keep confidential: 

  • Employee Information. This covers everything from Social Security numbers to injury reports, compensation, and any other personal information.
  • Internal Investigations. Investigations are tricky as they should be as confidential as possible while still being thorough, which may require the involvement of other parties. 
  • Future Plans. Companies every day are faced with decisions on whether they should close down, expand, hire new employees, promote, demote, etc. As management works through these decisions, HR does not share such details with employees.
  • Medical Information. Employee medical information should be kept to a strictly need-to-know basis. Written permission should be provided by the employee when such information needs to be shared. Some laws that apply include:
    • American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
    • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

What Isn't Kept Confidential

It's hard to manage a business if you don't have all of the information you need, which means that your HR representative reports information collected from employees to management the majority of the time. Employees sometimes make the mistake of assuming that anything communicated to HR is strictly confidential. However, they should expect that complaints filed with HR will more than likely be brought to the attention of management on some level.

For example, if a member of management makes inappropriate conversation or advances towards an employee, and the employee discusses it with HR "just so they know," HR is legally obligated to act. Part of this action is to launch an investigation, which will include the participation of the accused and possibly other employees. The same is true with accusations of discrimination. Employees must be aware of these HR obligations before they discuss such matters.

While HR doesn't discuss employee relations with other employees, they will almost always discuss complaints with management, as our obligation is to report issues to management, while still maintaining solid trust with employees.

How We Can Help

Everyone needs HR, but not everyone needs HR all the time. That's why we're here to help when you need us. We take confidentiality very seriously, and we always aim to solve problems with the utmost discretion.

Rate this blog entry:
10 Questions You Can’t Ask During an Interview
How to Overcome Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Get social with usarrow right

icon gplus bigicon linkedin bigicon twitter bigicon facebook bigicon youtube big