Friday, March 07, 2008

The Right to Be Sick...and Private

In our youth we proclaim and revel in our seemingly never-ending vitality and "immortality".

As a cub reporter many, many years ago, I felt pretty hardy working on stories until 5 in the morning--working almost a full 12 hours several days a week, and simply leaving the newsroom to go home for a quick shower, change of clothes, bite to eat and refreshing of makeup, to return and do the very same thing the next day. Abusing myself on less than 2 hours of sleep 3 days out of 7 made me feel exclusive and "special". I boasted to colleagues about never being ill with colds or flu, or even getting tired. My work kept me energized too busy to worry about missing days of work. One week I spent 8 hours in below zero cold, in mid-January Philadelphia, doing man-on-the-street interviews with Diane Sawyer, until my fingers were blue. Aah, the good old days...

Today, I have to be careful that some of the life challenges I've been forced to face, don't cause me to get depressed--because to get depressed, for me, means a sore throat, lowered metabolism, little energy, headaches, muscle aches and--if it continues--general malaise erupts into major gum infections, and an arthritic flare that requires bed rest and just gets steadily worse. News one would never share with a potential employer.
The question I pose in this post, however, is how much of the information about the illnesses we harbor is private information, not the business of employers or potential employers?

When does an employer desiring to know, or deciding to penalize an employee who either has a certain illness, or requires certain provisions because of an illness (not considered a disability), cross the line of violations of privacy? When does an employer or co-workers truly "need to know"?

Read the entire article in the NYT here:

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