National Freedom of Information Coalition
Protecting Your Right to Open Government

Washington state bans medical records from open court during harassment lawsuits

After being sexually harassed at work, some women face the specter of having the most intimate, private details of their lives dissected in open court by attorneys for their employer.

That’s because defense attorneys have often sought and obtained medical records of plaintiffs — even going back as far as birth — in defending their clients. Knowing this could happen, some victims of harassment have opted against taking their employer and their harasser to court.

“It was a way to silence their voices,” said state Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, an employment-discrimination attorney. “It was a re-victimization, especially in sexual harassment cases.”

But with the #MeToo movement as a catalyst, the state Legislature passed a law this year that bans privileged medical and mental-health records and communications in most discrimination cases from reaching the courtroom during a court process known as discovery. Read more…