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Oh son, but is it a violation?(Covid related)

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Oh son, but is it a violation?(Covid related)
Old 07-06-2020, 11:32 AM
  #1

My son is in a tricky situation, and while I think it could have been handled better, I donít think his crime is what they say.

My son works in a warehouse type environment, one that desperately wants to stay open. They had been lucky, but itís possible the luck might change.

My sonís crew mate went in a vacation to Mexico. They came back and his wife had tummy troubles, which isnít uncommon after travels to that area. He said he felt fine,just his wife was sick with ďMontezumaís revenge,Ē they didnít tell anyone to not cause worry, but they got tested for Covid just in case. The crew mate went to work every day. Wife has been sick for a week. They tested Thursday and were told yesterday both were positive.

My sonís managers are on vacation. He emailed them that crew mate (by name) tested positive and now they need to know what to do.

The managers immediately disregarded the positive information, but want to reprimand my son for violating HIPAA laws. My son is a good person, hard working and loyal, but he has never been book smart. He asked me what it even was and while I explained, I told him that I donít believe he violated that law because heís not a manager, HR, a worker in the medical field, or stole access to any records. The coworker texted him the information.

I think they are trying to scare him for saying anything to anyone else. Or maybe they are confused and feel he did violate the law in earnest . I donít know which. I donít know the managers. Itís is a very , for lack of better words, red neck work environment.

Am I wrong?


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Old 07-06-2020, 11:49 AM
  #2

I don't think you are wrong. My take is the managers are on vacation and they didn't leave a clear system in place to handle the situation. They really don't want to deal with it while on vacation. I think your son is the scapegoat.
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Old 07-06-2020, 11:52 AM
  #3

I think those laws apply to healthcare providers;only the provider with the medical records.
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Old 07-06-2020, 11:54 AM
  #4

I'm no expert, but I think it is a violation for him to give the coworkers name. He should have said "someone on our crew tested positive." But, it's management's fault for not having clear guidelines in place to begin with, and this is no excuse for them not dealing with the situation either. If testing is freely available in your area, at minimum your son should go get tested. They should be shutting down the unit and having everyone tested.
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Old 07-06-2020, 12:04 PM
  #5

I do not feel your son did anything wrong. Your son had a logical response to a coworker testing positive. Does his workplace have a plan in place with protocol for handling this situation if/when it happens? Sounds like they maybe didn't, or maybe your son was unaware or didn't follow it, but I don't think he broke any HIPPA laws since the coworker had already informed him of his health status. Hopefully the crewmate had already contacted the manager about his positive status.

I hope your son and other coworkers stay healthy, and his positive coworker recovers quickly.


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Infor on HIPAA
Old 07-06-2020, 12:06 PM
  #6

What a mess. It sounds to me like the managers went on vacation without leaving anyone in charge (or at least anyone fully trained and with authority to make decisions). That's on them.

It sounds as if your son communicated the information to the managers, not to the world. But even if he had, he is not a health care provider or a health insurance company. He's not even the warehouse manager. He's a coworker of someone who texted him information about his health, likely with no request to keep it confidential. I assume the coworker let him know because he wanted to protect other workers.

Here's a link to HIPAA info from the US government. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/fi...acysummary.pdf
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Old 07-06-2020, 12:11 PM
  #7

It is not a HIPAA violation. Anna is right that it only applies to certain entities.

He did the right thing.

It's hard to tell if the bosses don't want to deal with it or don't understand the law. Probably both.

I hope his work makes the right choice to keep others safe.
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Old 07-06-2020, 12:36 PM
  #8

He went to Mexico! I thought the border was still closed for non essential travel.

Crew mate disclosed the positive result to your son. Unless your son is in HR there can be no Hippa violation. And even if he is in HR, he was asking his boss for clarification on policy. The only possible complaint they might have is that he used the name instead of someone on the crew. I think the boss is just upset that he has to deal with this on vacation and would have preferred not to know. Boss needs to realize that having no clear policy during a pandemic is not wise.

Everyone at work who came into contact with Mr Positive needs to be tested now and remain at home until the test comes back negative.
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Old 07-06-2020, 01:00 PM
  #9

Talk about mismanagement! The "managers" should be more concerned about what they need to do to keep their workers safe than making false threats.

If possible, when it works for your son, he needs to transfer to a different company.
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Old 07-06-2020, 01:12 PM
  #10

So his boss wants to do nothing? THEY are the ones in the wrong. The employee volunteered the info. Management needs to take the info, not spread the name, but answer the question immediately as to what their employees should do in case of a COVID exposure.


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Old 07-06-2020, 01:38 PM
  #11

No, your son did not violate HIPAA. That does not apply to him.



https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-profes...rds/index.html
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Old 07-06-2020, 01:39 PM
  #12

Quote:
but they got tested for Covid just in case. The crew mate went to work every day. Wife has been sick for a week. They tested Thursday and were told yesterday both were positive.
In my opinion, the one who should be reprimanded is this employee. If you get tested "just in case", then that's enough reason to self quarantine.
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Disclosing COVID results of Co-worker
Old 07-06-2020, 04:23 PM
  #13

Quote:
. My sonís managers are on vacation. He emailed them that crew mate (by name) tested positive and now they need to know what to do.

1. This is where your son violated his co-workerís medical confidentiality by disclosing his medical condition w/o permission.

2. The Medical results should have came directly from the crew mate not your son.

3. If your sonís manager would have accepted the information w/o any reprimand, the manager could be in violation of employees confidentiality & liable for lawsuit for discussing an employees health w/o permission.

4. Your son sent an email. His manager probably reacted the way he did to ensure that it was obvious that he was not discussing another persons medical info.

5. I know your son was nervous at the news & just wanted clarification regarding next steps at the jobóas I would too butó

6, As employees we canít legally disclose our colleagues medical condition with others in the workplace w/o permission.
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Old 07-06-2020, 04:51 PM
  #14

I think it could be a violation of trust, but I can’t find anywhere that it’s a legal violation because it was obtained from the person themselves, not via a medical record obtained unlawfully, and my son isn’t his doctor, nurse , medical case worker or medical receptionist or case worker of any kind, nor does he work in Human Resources.

I do find a lot of information and advice to employees stating that you should never tell anyone outside of HR your medical information because your information is not legally protected in the hands of coworkers or even most types of bosses outside of HR or the medical fields, unless the bosses or managers use their authority to force you to tell them information that they don’t have a right to know. If you tell people the information and they didn’t have access or gain access to records to get that information, it’s not a legal violation.

If anyone can find anything that says coworkers are covered under HIPAA, I do want to see it. Everything I’m finding is saying the opposite, and that in fact because of this lack of protection with coworkers and non-medical authorities you actually shouldn’t divulge any information to anyone because there is nothing legally binding to
protect your information.
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Old 07-07-2020, 05:21 AM
  #15

I do not believe it is a violation of HIPAA, but it violates ADA.

This is a part of ADA in regards to confidentiality:

Quote:
If a positive case is identified in the workplace, the employer is encouraged to investigate the exposure of others in the workplace without disclosing the name of the individual or any personally identifiable information about the person.
By naming the person, your son put the company in an awkward position, especially if the person identified files a complaint - even if the person told your son, any action the company takes from this point on needs to follow guidelines.

I do not know the company, or all of the information, but the "disregard" may be their attempt to keep the identity of the person quiet while they investigate. Your son may not be in the loop of what they are doing.

I totally understand that your son was concerned about his health.

I am left with a lot of questions. But I do think by naming the person in an email it has opened up a can of worms for the company.
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Old 07-07-2020, 05:46 AM
  #16

Your son's situation reminds me slightly of a situation I sometimes face as a sub. A teacher might tell me he or she isn't feeling well, but I was told informally long ago that this kind of information is confidential and shouldn't be shared with classes. Students will sometimes ask why their teacher is absent, and I'll reply that I don't know.

As others have pointed out, your son probably shouldn't have shared the crew mate's name, but this doesn't sound like a HIPAA violation. I've done online HIPAA training several times (many of us have), and I don't ever recall reading or hearing anything that covers this situation.

Your son clearly meant well. He was in a very difficult position, and did what he thought was best. Employers tend to have long lists of work rules, written and unwritten, but again, I have never seen or heard this issue discussed.

As mhugs pointed out, your son is being made the scapegoat. The managers don't seem to grasp that these aren't ordinary times. A COVID-19 outbreak could quickly put their company out of business.
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Old 07-07-2020, 06:03 AM
  #17

I understand if he were the employer he would have violatd ADA, but can you find me information about how an employee and not an employer violates ADA? I might just be missing it.

All I can find is similar as with HIPAA. If he were the employer releasing the information to subordinates without permission in the email , it would constitute a breech, but I can’t find anything about an employee giving information to superiors about infectious disease or dangerous substances or situations . I do find information that says that once an employee tells an employer about those types of concerns (drug use in the job, infectious disease, etc) that the employer cannot release the information to the other subordinates by name. But I can’t find where employees carry those responsibilities when reporting to an employer or superior.
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Old 07-07-2020, 11:38 AM
  #18

CricketSong,

In the workplace all employees have a right to have their privacy & health information protected.

If anyone (supervisors or co-worker) breaches a person’s confidentiality or disclose private health information they are liable for disciplinary actions & even a lawsuit (if the person whose privacy was breached wants to file a lawsuit).


Here is a quick scenario (that is similar to your son’s situation) in teacher terms

Teacher A: Tells her grade level colleague (Teacher B) that her doctors just told her that she has cancer. She explains that she plans on taking the remaining of the school year off. Teacher A has not disclosed this information to anyone else at the school.

Teacher B: After the conversation with Teacher A, emails the Principal to inform him that Teacher A had cancer & wants to know who will take over her class during this time.

Principal: Explains that he didn’t know about Teacher A’s health & tells Teacher B that she violated the workplace policy by disclosing Teacher A health information.


Teacher B was genuinely concerned about the education of students in the class & staffing at the school, but still breached Teacher A’s confidentiality.


Quote:
But I can’t find where employees carry those responsibilities when reporting to an employer or superior.

Here is a website about workplace privacy among coworkers

https://www.allbusiness.com/workplac...4113159-1.html

ETA: I think your son’s crew mate was wrong for going to work ill, and the crew mate should have told the supervisor immediately upon finding out his results.

I would be nervous & very concerned if my colleagues tested positive.

However, disclosing someone’s medical info in the workplace is a breach of confidentiality.

Last edited by Dr. A; 07-07-2020 at 02:10 PM..
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Honestly
Old 07-07-2020, 12:43 PM
  #19

even if it was against HIPPA regulations, which I really respect, I may have asked my coworker to tell the administration. If he/she didn't I just might have let them know. Yup, I would face a lawsuit, and I would have accepted termination from my job but at least I could sleep at night knowing I did all I could from stopping others from being in contact with COVID 19 without them knowing.

I have known of my coworkers health conditions that they didn't want others to know. I kept that to myself. However, what they were suffering from was not going to kill anyone else.
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Old 07-07-2020, 01:01 PM
  #20

My first thought is, who's going to Mexico at a time like this?

Aside from that, it's all a mess. The crewmate was so stupid to not have better common sense and should have NOT gone to work knowing his wife was sick. He should have been the one to tell the managers first thing!

The wrong, innocent person (your son) is in trouble for trying to help. The managers SHOULD be appreciative and grateful for what he did. They could have easily been like that just as easily as they were accusatory toward your son because it's obvious the managers don't know the workplace policies.

So now a week's worth of ALL the people at the crewmate's workplace, grocery stores, barbershop, other stores, etc. he may have gone to have all been exposed now.

So I hope your son stopped going to work for now the moment his crewmate told him he was positive. What did the managers say now?

I hope your son stays fine!
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Old 07-07-2020, 04:48 PM
  #21

HIPPA laws only apply to healthcare workers. Your son did the right thing and I am so proud of him. His managers are not acting responsibly by refusing to take immediate action. I am sorry he is in the middle of this, but he did what he needed to do! He rocks!

Nancy
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