Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
LisaAOH

Mental Health- Is this REALLY a breach of confidentiality?

5 posts in this topic

 A little hx-I worked as an Intake Specialist for an outpatient mental health office. I was at this job for 9 years- never any problems- I was dx'd w/COPD a yr ago& have missed ALOT of work- have had FMLA, found out from my Dr. my employer has tried to get the FMLA stopped; after being released from the hospital the 2nd time my coworkers donated 76 hrs of sick time to me & the HR Director took it upon herself to ONLY let me have 40 hrs to make 1 wk & gave the rest BACK to my coworkers; there was nothing in the policy you could only have donations for a week, she had never done this to the 2 other people who had donations & right after she CHANGED the policy to say someone on intermittent FMLA (which I had) could NOT have donations from coworkers. -6 months ago my work partner quit & they said they wouldn't pay the money to hire someone (qualifed) and made my already VERY stressful job impossible (1 person to answer 3 busy phone lines--including CRISIS CALLS FROM SUICIDAL PEOPLE) I feel I was set up to fail or have a nervous breakdown!! A month ago I was told they were moving me to another position that would be "less stressful & wouldn't make as much difference if I missed work-I had to train 3 people to take my positon--I had a feeling they were trying to get rid of me

 

 The office was located in a big old hospital where there are 5-6 other MH offices. A few wks ago there was a bomb threat to one of our offices & there was a story online. I linked the story to my Facebook & I commented this:  "The bomb threat caller just HAD to pick the hottest dang day to make us stand outside for almost an hour and a half! Unfortunately when the LOUD fire alarm was going off I thought it was a drill & stayed on my call- a very sad 16 year old girl called wanting to see a therapist...her Father was killed just a few weeks ago in an accident and she made the call herself so I was not wanting to hang up but after hearing the fire alarm for about 10 minutes the HR Director and our safety person came around and made me hang up. That's when I heard that someone called our office & said there was a bomb so I was a little more willing to leave. After almost 2 hours some people left for home and I went back upstairs to call the little girl back..." ---My FB has NEVER said where I worked----a week after I posted this to my FB they fired me for breach of confidentiality---DO YOU SEE IT AS ENOUGH INFORMATION TO BE A BREACH???  Also- how do I explain this to a future prospective employer?  Can they not give me unemployment for the reason I was fired?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DO YOU SEE IT AS ENOUGH INFORMATION TO BE A BREACH??? 

 

Unfortunately, yes.

 

You gave out just enough information so that some people might have been able to identify the child that called.

 

And even if it wasn't a breach of HIPAA, it's obvious that your employer didn't like what you did and fired you for it.

 

Since you are likely employed "at will" it was perfectly legal.

 

Google facebook job loss and you'll see that people are losing their jobs for stuff they put on facebook.

 

 

 how do I explain this to a future prospective employer? 

 

With a lot less whining and finger pointing than you have in your post.

 

Better to say something like "I was fired for mistakenly posting something relating to my employment on facebook and I'll never do it again."

 

 

Can they not give me unemployment for the reason I was fired?

 

It's entirely possible that what you did amounts to "misconduct" under your state's unemployment compensation laws so, yes, it's possible that you could be denied unemployment for what you posted on facebook.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DO YOU SEE IT AS ENOUGH INFORMATION TO BE A BREACH???  Also- how do I explain this to a future prospective employer?  Can they not give me unemployment for the reason I was fired?

 

Yes, I do see it as a potential problem. Most medical practices and professionals are subject to the privacy rule of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under that Act, it is illegal to disclose personally identifiable information concerning any patient unless the patient consents or unless some exception in the law applies. Here, though you did not say where you worked on the FB page, presumably at least some of  your FB friends know that information anyway. And even if someone reading it didn’t know where you worked, it's not that hard to find out where most people are employed. Also, the fact of the bomb threat could enable someone to figure it out as the threat was likely reported to the police and thus is a public record. The information disclosed about the girl might be enough to personally identify her for the purposes of the rule. In addition, applicable state laws may also protect patient privacy (though I cannot comment on what state rules apply here as you did not specify the state).

 

Because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and state authorities may impose fines and other sanctions on facilities that violate the applicable privacy rules, many health organizations impose strict rules on employees not to disclose any information about a patient, even including the very brief description of the call you received from the girl here. That kind of rule ensures that they don't have to get into a debate over whether what was disclosed will violate the rule. At the very least if that girl came across your FB, she might well feel like her confidentiality was breached, since she would know you were talking about her. And that could create problems for the facility.

 

Moreover, the employer probably didn’t like the implied criticism of it in your FB post. A number of employees have been fired for making posts critical of their employer, whether or not their employer was actually named in the post. 

 

Your employer likely didn’t need some justification to fire you. Most employment in the U.S. is at will and the employer may fire you for just about any reason at all apart from reasons based on illegal discrimination (e.g. race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, and genetic test information under federal law; your state may protect additional characteristics) and a few others reasons. However, firing you without sufficient cause may result in the employer's unemployment tax rates to go up. This is why employers may try to make an employee miserable enough to quit — it can save them unemployment tax.

 

Whether your FB disclosure is sufficient to deny you benefits (and thus save the employer the tax increase) is something that is determined by state law, and as you didn't mention the state, no one can tell you how that is likely to play out here. However, you may as well apply and see what the state says. It doesn't cost anything and you might get the benefits. Whether you get them is determined by the state, not your employer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with AdjusterJack, it WAS a breach of confidentiality to reveal anything about the call you received in relation to a bomb threat that was obviously in the news.   You not only provided enough information for people to figure out where you worked but more than enough for the caller, who you knew was a minor, to be identified. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0