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Reporting High Risk Employees to Employers

employer workplace adverse event

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We have a scenario in a workplace wellness intervention where employees are responsible for the security and safety of the general public. The study is very careful not to collect data that diagnoses anything specifically (mental, physical or otherwise). However, it is possible that all data elements together could identify a participant that may need more intensive attention than the included intervention (s).

May is the important wording here. Again, we are not diagnosing anyone, all measures are non-clinical and non-diagnostic.

Referring that participant who may need help, to that help, is easy. But, do we also have a responsibility to alert the employer who has a responsibility to maintain the security and safety of the general public?

If so, how do we do so with as much support and privacy to that employee?

Dr. Doug Latuseck

Posts: 3

I would suggest the general ethical principle of Nonmaleficence applies. Since you are not (as a researcher gathering basic screening-level type information) in a position to possess a high degree of certainty regarding a concern that an employee poses a risk, you are not in a position to alert an employer that a risk may exist. Doing so would be reasonably likely to result in negative consequences for the employee and you probably have not outlined in your Infomred Consent that you may be reporting specific information about them to the employer. Alternatively, if you obtain information from an employee that reveals a clear and specific threat & you have included mandated reporting/Tarasoff language in your Informed Consent document (and you have professionals who are mandated reporters involved in the research) you may indeed be in a position where there are statutory obligations in your state related to Tarasoff type duty to warn responsibilities.