United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
IN RE EMPLOYMENT RECORDS OF JOHN DOES EMPLOYED BY SHARPE HOLDING, INC.,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
miscellaneous matter is before the Court on Secretary of
Labor R. Alexander Acosta's Application for Order
Authorizing the Disclosure of Patient Records (ECF No. 1).
The application is fully briefed and ready for disposition.
Upon review of the application and related pleadings, the
Court will deny movant's Application for Order
Authorizing the Disclosure of Patient Records.
Holdings, Inc. ("Sharpe") is located in Bethel,
Missouri and operates numerous businesses, including CNS
International Ministries, Inc. ("CNSIMI")
(collectively "Heartland"). CNSIMI is a Missouri
nonprofit corporation that provides full-time residential
services to men, women, and children with behavioral problems
or alcohol or drug dependencies. The Heartland Men's
Recovery Program ("Recovery Program") run by CNSIMI
is the program at issue in this miscellaneous action. As part
of treatment, participants in the Recovery Program work for
and are paid by one of Sharpe's for-profit businesses. In
late 2016, a former Recovery Program participant complained
to the St. Louis Wage and Hour Division of the Department of
Labor ("WHD") that the Recovery Program did not pay
for overtime or off-the-clock work; held the money earned by
participants and only gave access to a small portion; and
only gave 25 percent of earnings to participants who left the
program before the expiration of the twelve-month commitment.
The Secretary of Labor ("Secretary") seeks records
and interviews of Recovery Program employees and
participants. The Recovery Program objects on the basis that
disclosure of the program participants' identities is
confidential, and the Secretary is unable to demonstrate good
cause for such disclosure.
federal law, "[r]ecords of the identity . .. of any
patient which are maintained in connection with the
performance of any program or activity relating to substance
abuse ... treatment... which is conducted, regulated, or
directly or indirectly assisted by any department or agency
of the United States shall... be confidential and be
disclosed only for the purposes and under the circumstances
expressly authorized under subsection (b) of this
section." 42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2(a). Disclosure is
permitted only by prior written consent of the patient or
"by an appropriate order of a court of competent
jurisdiction ... after application showing good cause
therefor .. .." 42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2(b)(2)(C). The
court weighs the public interest and need for disclosure
against any injury to the patient and the treatment services.
Id. In addition, should the court grant such order
disclosing patient identity, the court "shall impose
appropriate safeguards against unauthorized disclosure."
support of its request for disclosure of the identities of
past and present Recovery Program participants, the Secretary
asserts that without the identities WHD would be unable to
investigate what it believes to be organizational-wide,
systematic violations of the FLSA. The Secretary argues that
good cause exists due to the importance of protecting workers
from labor violations. Heartland, on the other hand, contends
that the Secretary is unable to demonstrate the requisite
good cause for the disclosure of participants in the
Heartland Recovery Program. The Court agrees with Heartland
that disclosure of patient records is not warranted.
the Court recognizes that the purpose of the FLSA is to
protect employees from wage and hour abuses, the Court notes
that substance abuse treatment is a sensitive matter,
particularly where the patient is admitted into a long-term
residential program. The Secretary contends that WHD seeks
the information under 42 C.F.R. § 2.66 to investigate a
part 2 program. The Court notes that to obtain an order
authorizing disclosure, the Secretary must demonstrate that
other ways of obtaining the information are not available or
would not be effective and the public interest and need for
the disclosure outweigh the potential injury to the patient.
42 C.F.R. § 2.64(d).
the Secretary presents no case law addressing the disclosure
of the identities of patients in a substance abuse treatment
program. However, courts have noted that in enacting §
290dd-2, "Congress felt that 'the strictest
adherence' to the confidentiality provision was needed,
lest individuals in need of drug abuse treatment be dissuaded
from seeking help." Ellison v. Cocke Cty.,
Term., 63 F.3d 467, 471 (6th Cir. 1995); Fannon v.
Johnston, 88 F.Supp.2d 753, 757 (E.D. Mich. 2000);
Mosier v. Am.. Home Patient, Inc., 170 F.Supp.2d
1211, 1213 (N.D. Fla. 2001). As stated by Heartland, work is
an integral part of rehabilitation. Disclosing the identities
of participants in the Recovery Program and allowing WHD to
gain access to their employment records and interview such
participants would eliminate the confidentiality of
Heartland's substance abuse program. Further, such
disclosure would likely discourage those in need of substance
abuse treatment from entering the Recovery Program. See
U.S. ex rel. Chandler v. Cook Cty., Ill. 277 F.3d 969,
981 (7th Cir. 2002) ("It is not only the privacy rights
of individual patients that are at stake here, but also the
continued effectiveness and viability of important substance
abuse treatment programs. .. . Patients will be less willing
to seek treatment if patient confidentiality is not strictly
protected."); Whyte v. Conn. Mut. Life Ins.
Co., 818 F.2d 1005, 1010 (1st Cir. 1987) ("Without
guarantees of confidentiality, many individuals with
[substance abuse] problems would be reluctant to participate
fully in [substance abuse] programs.").
to the extent that the Secretary seeks information regarding
the employment practices of the Recovery Program, the
Secretary has failed to demonstrate that the identities of
participants is critical to investigating possible FLSA wage
and hour violations. Heartland has offered to submit redacted
employment records, but the Secretary has refused such offer.
Other than the bare assertion that redacted records would be
insufficient and ineffective, the Secretary has failed to
support such assertion, especially where no FLSA case has
been filed and WHD has not examined the complainant's or
any other Recovery Program participant's records.
Further, as stated above, the Secretary has failed to
demonstrate that WHD's need for the identities of past
and present Recovery Program patients outweighs the injury of
violating patient privacy. 42 C.F.R. § 2.64(d).
Therefore, the Court will deny the Secretary's
Application for Order Authorizing the Disclosure of Patient
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Application
for Order Authorizing the Disclosure of ...