Visitor Question

Is my verbally abusive employer violating my HIPAA rights?

Submitted By: James (Lebanon, Indiana, USA)

I am a supervisor at a manufacturing facility. I sent my boss, the Plant Manager, the HR Manager and my co-supervisor a text message stating that I was taking a sick day as I wasn’t feeling good.

The next day, I sent another text message stating that I was still sick and would be taking another sick day (I’m entitled to five sick days by company policy).

My boss replied and said, “Jim, I expect a little more information from you when your are off for multiple days in a row, merely sending a text stating you are calling in sick is insufficient.”

I ended up getting FMLA paperwork filed that day with my doctor and ended up being off work for 1 month or 4 weeks.

My co-supervisor’s son got killed in a car wreck and the HR manager called me and made me feel that they were trying to force me back to work before I was really ready, but I decided I’d better go back.

Upon my return, my boss began treating me very rudely, even making threats.

He told me “I am looking for your replacement,” and “I’m going to fire you.”

In a private meeting, he told me that I was “a lost cause before he came to the facility.”

He has constantly belittled, berated, and even cussed and yelled at me.

He has yelled at me during scheduling meetings with others present.

The rude and belittling behavior started as soon as he took the job as the plant manager, which was approximately 6 months ago. I have warned him that my medical information is not open for discussion. He may be violating my HIPAA rights. Is there anything I can do? Is this discrimination for my medical leave? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear James,

HIPAA is an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Act is designed to protect patients’ privacy, including patients’ medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, called “covered entities.”

The Act applies to health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and to any healthcare provider who transmits health information in electronic form. Covered entities can be in violation of the Act if they disseminate a patient’s medical information to third parties and do so without the express authorization of the patient.

From the facts you present, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence your employer, supervisor, or anyone else wrongfully disseminated your protected medical information. Moreover, your employer, supervisor or other employee are not covered entities as defined under HIPAA.

Further, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence you suffered discrimination. Discrimination would exist if your supervisor wrongfully terminated or demoted you based on your race, religion, age, gender or sexual preference. You employer being rude isn’t a legal cause of action. But you should still discuss the specifics of your case with a local attorney.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: January 4, 2015

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