How, under Equal Employment Opportunity, can a prospective employer ask you to sign a HIPAA waiver?
(anonymous since the question is about privacy)
I had a job interview today, for a job I really want, in the state of New York. One of the application forms I had to sign was one that authorized them to see my medical records, talk to old doctors, etc. (It also authorized them to do a background check, which I know is all public information anyway, and certified that I wasn't lying on my application, which I wasn't.)
I asked the HR person if it was even legal (or had any actual legal force) for me to sign away this privacy to a prospective employer. She said that if I already worked for them, they couldn't do it, but since I didn't, they could. And that if I didn't sign it, I couldn't talk to her any more. I offered to cross out the part that I didn't like, but she nixed that too.
Ultimately, since I want the job, and since I "have nothing to hide," I signed it. She said that she has never actually done any of the investigation that I just authorized, but that I have to sign it anyway: I expected that they weren't going to do the check, but I don't like signing things that needlessly waive rights that I am given by law.
So, my question is, doesn't HIPAA or EEO prohibit this? Maybe, maybe not:
This HHS page
Health information covered by the rule generally may not be used for purposes not related to health care - such as disclosures to employers to make personnel decisions, or to financial institutions - without explicit authorization from the individual.
I know I just gave them "explicit authorization", but I don't understand how it is legal to use this as the basis for a personnel decision in the first place.
This fluffy pdf
In general, your health information cannot be given to your employer, ... or used or shared for many other purposes unless you give your permission by signing an authorization form. This authorization form must tell you who will get your information and what your information will be used for.
The EEOC's Discriminatory Practices page
Before making an offer of employment, an employer may not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform job functions. A job offer may be conditioned on the results of a medical examination, but only if the examination is required for all entering employees in the same job category. Medical examinations of employees must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Again, since I signed the waiver, it's not really forbidden by HIPAA. I can't say for sure whether it really told me what the information would be used for, but I suppose even "as part of a background check" may be good enough.
All of my reading has been on the federal level; I don't know if there are New York-specific laws that might apply: do you? Is there anything I'm missing here? My goal is not to take any legal action or anything, just to give them a solid reason to change their form for future applicants. Also, the company is a branch of a British concern, if that makes any difference.