On October 1, Eimer Stahl attorneys Ryan Walsh, Jacob Hamann, and Amy Miller filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce, as well as some local chambers, to stop the State of Wisconsin from releasing the names of over a thousand businesses that, since May, have had at least two employees test positive for COVID-19. A coalition of interest groups had urged the State not to release this information, because doing so would violate employee privacy rights and irreparably harm businesses by creating the false impression that the companies on the list are unsafe.
The court immediately granted our clients’ requested relief, ordering the State not to release this information while the case remains ongoing.
Ryan sat down with Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) host Judith Siers-Poisson to discuss the lawsuit, and why it’s important to keep such sensitive data private. While the State was planning on releasing the names of only the businesses and not the names of the employees, Ryan explained that is still a violation of privacy. “Under state healthcare privacy law, even a patient’s employer is a confidential health record,” said Ryan, noting it would often be easy for someone, starting with just the employer name, to figure out who specifically has tested positive for the virus.
Ryan emphasized that “the planned release of names covers businesses that have been connected to COVID-19 going back all the way to May. This is going to cause mass confusion. People are going to think these employers are somehow risky, and that they ought to be avoided and that they have outbreaks—that they’re hotspots. But nothing could be further from the truth.”
Listen to Ryan’s full WPR commentary here.