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Confidentiality and the Employee Assistance Program:
A Question and Answer Guide for Federal Employees


We want all employees to be aware of the services provided by their agencies' Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and to fully understand that the success of these programs depends, in large part, on the confidential nature of the records. EAPs help you deal effectively with personal problems such as alcoholism or drug abuse and other problems involving family, financial issues, work and family, etc.

Every agency provides EAP services to its employees at no cost. These programs are staffed by experienced counselors who are available to discuss problems in a confidential, helpful manner.

Following are the most frequently asked questions about Employee Assistance Programs and the confidentiality of EAP records.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

An EAP is a service available to all employees at no cost. It is staffed by professional counselors who will help you address problems that can adversely affect job performance, reliability, and personal health. The counselor may refer you to other professional services and resources within your community for further information and assistance.

I have a problem with drugs. My performance is quite good and I've received a number of awards. I'm afraid that if I go to the EAP for help, my supervisor will find out the truth and then my career will be over. Can this happen?

No. Information about your discussions with the EAP cannot be disclosed without your permission. There are regulations (42 CFR Part 2) that require confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse records, and they provide penalties for unlawful or unauthorized release of information.

If there are regulations that guarantee confidentiality for alcoholics and drug abusers, what about those of us with other types of problems?

Those same regulations prohibit the implicit or negative disclosure of information and, as such, agency EAPs may not release any information without a signed consent, no matter what the nature of the problem is.

Can I be forced to sign a release of information regarding my involvement in the EAP?

No. However, there may be instances where it will be in an employee's best interests to sign a release of information, e.g., when an employee is seeking accommodation for a certain physical or emotional problem. Another example might be when an employee is involved in a potential disciplinary situation and wishes to show management his or her sincerity in seeking assistance with the problem. Based on this information regarding an employee's involvement in the Employee Assistance Program, a supervisor might decide to hold any disciplinary action in abeyance pending a positive change in the employee's performance or conduct.

I am a supervisor, and I am interested in talking to one of our agency's EAP counselors. Will my participation be kept confidential as with any other employee?

It doesn't matter if you are the head of the agency or any other employee, everything will be confidential.

Under what circumstances can information about me be disclosed without my permission?

Under 42 CFR Part 2, any instances of suspected child abuse and neglect must be reported to appropriate State or local authorities. Also, when a client commits, or threatens to commit, a crime that would harm someone else or cause substantial property damage, law enforcement personnel must be informed.

I know that if I have an alcohol or drug problem, there are regulations that guarantee confidentiality. My problem is that I am a single parent, my bills are mounting, and I need financial counseling. I would be terribly ashamed if anyone at my agency found out, but I need to go to the EAP. How can I be sure that my coworkers or supervisor won't find out?

Most agencies have issued internal policy about their EAPs which assures that no matter what an employee's problem is, it will remain confidential.

Please remember, your Employee Assistance Program can help you with your problem and your confidentiality is assured. Contact your personnel office for more information about your agency's EAP.

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