Section 25-5-294

Communications, etc. privileged; documentation; release of records or information; penalty for obtaining information under false pretenses.

(a) All letters, reports, communications, and other matters, written or oral, from employer or employee to each other, to the Secretary of the Department of Labor, any of his or her agents, representatives, or employees, or to any official or board functioning under this article, which have been written, sent, delivered, or made in connection with the requirements and administration of this article, shall be absolutely privileged. Information obtained from the above mentioned matters shall be held confidential, except to the extent necessary for the proper presentation of the contest of a claim, and shall not be published or open to public inspection in any manner. Any person violating this section shall be fined not less than $20.00 nor more than $200.00, or imprisoned for not longer than 30 days, or both.

(b) The secretary may make summaries, compilations, photographs, duplications, or reproductions of any records as he or she may deem advisable for the effective and economical preservation of the information contained therein. The documentation, duly authenticated, shall be admissible in any proceeding under this article if the original record or records would have been admissible therein.

(c) The secretary may, upon specific request therefor, furnish to any public agency a workers' compensation record in his or her custody, if the agency makes payment of a reasonable cost therefor.

(d) At his or her discretion, the secretary may release information for the purpose of making economic analyses to institutions of higher education, or a federal government corporation upon payment of a reasonable cost therefor. The institution or federal government corporation shall agree in writing that information so obtained shall not be published or released by it to any person in a manner to permit the identification of any specific individual or employing unit.

(e) The secretary may afford reasonable cooperation with any agency of the United States or any state agency charged with the administration of any workers' compensation laws.

(f) The secretary may upon specific request release a workers' compensation record or information therein to any public official or to any law enforcement officer if the release is deemed by the secretary to be necessary for the performance of the official's or officer's duties and upon payment of a reasonable cost therefor in accordance with any regulations the secretary may prescribe.

(g) Any person who willfully makes a false statement or representation to obtain any information under this section, either for himself or herself or for any other person, who uses any information for any purpose other than in the performance of his or her official duties, or in any other manner misuses the information, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $200.00 nor more than $1,000.00, or by imprisonment for not less than three nor more than 12 months, or by both fine and imprisonment.

(Acts 1992, No. 92-537, p. 1082, §41.)