WCAB Protects Employee Privacy from Overbroad Discovery

In an important decision safeguarding employee medical privacy rights, a panel of the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board granted a petition for removal and rescinded a judge’s order requiring an injured worker to disclose her complete 10-year medical treatment history.

The case involved Jennifer Reveles, an employee who suffered a workplace injury while employed by the State of California. SCIF filed a petition seeking to compel Reveles to sign an authorization for release of all her medical records. The employer cited Labor Code Section 4663(d), which requires disclosure of “all previous permanent disabilities or physical impairments.”

Reveles objected, but the workers’ compensation judge ordered her to list all medical treatment received in the last decade related to her neck, arms, and wrists. The judge stated the employer could seek any additional information through a deposition. Reveles filed a petition for removal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. She argued the order exceeded section 4663(d)’s requirements by demanding her full treatment history, rather than just disclosure of prior disabilities and impairments. She likened the order to improper written interrogatories.

WCAB Rules in Favor of Applicant

The WCAB agreed with Reveles on both points. In its decision, the panel stated that section 4663(d) only mandates disclosure of “specified disability or impairment” and “does not require the employee to disclose all prior medical treatment.”

The panel found the ordered disclosure of a decade’s worth of treatment details “unduly burdensome” and unsupported by 4663(d). It criticized the employer’s “failure to explain how compelling applicant’s authorization to disclose an unlimited medical treatment history comports” with that statute. Crucially, the panel emphasized that while judges have discretion to resolve discovery disputes, an employer must justify why other discovery methods are inadequate before demanding burdensome written disclosures. Since the employer made no such showing, its requested medical releases were deemed “unsupported” by 4663(d).

As a result, the Appeals Board’s panel granted removal, rescinded the disclosure order, denied the employer’s petition to compel medical releases, and returned the case for further proceedings at the trial level. It encouraged the parties to negotiate an appropriate discovery plan, including any required 4663(d) disclosures and a possible deposition.

The decision provides a clear guardrail against unbounded discovery into an injured worker’s medical history. It reinforces that disclosure demands must be firmly grounded in the applicable workers’ compensation statutes and rules – not just an employer’s desire for maximum information.

At Yrulegui & Roberts, our Sacramento workers’ compensation defense lawyers possess the expertise to address all issues related to discovery. Call us now or contact us online to set up your completely confidential case review. We defend workers’ compensation cases in Sacramento and all across Central California.