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FormerLegalSecy

Rumors About My Health

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I was told by a workplace friend who works in HR that "everybody is all worried about my health."

 

I am having some health issues but I am dealing with it.  I have not missed any work or requested any accommodations.  I am doing my job as assigned and frankly I don't think whatever health issues I may be having are anybody's business so long as I am able to do my job, nor do I want to discuss it with my employer.

 

It bothers me that people are talking about my health, apparently with HR.

 

Not that it matters, but in case anybody was wondering it is a physical health thing, not a mental health thing. (I realize that sometimes a person might have a mental health issue that affected their work without them realizing it, but that is not the case in this situation.)

 

Are my manager and/or HR allowed to just speculate about my health and/or discuss it and/or make decisions (?) based on their speculations about it like that?  Would that fall under ADA under the heading of "being regarded as" having a disability (whether or not one actually does)?

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56 minutes ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

I was told by a workplace friend who works in HR that "everybody is all worried about my health."

 

You put this in quotation marks, which would mean that your friend is speaking about his/her health ("my health"), but the rest of your post suggests that your friend was saying that people are concerned about your health.  So is this not actually a quote despite your use of quotation marks?

 

 

58 minutes ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

apparently with HR.

 

What does this mean?

 

 

58 minutes ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

Are my manager and/or HR allowed to just speculate about my health and/or discuss it and/or make decisions (?) based on their speculations about it like that?

 

Yes.

 

 

58 minutes ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

Would that fall under ADA under the heading of "being regarded as" having a disability (whether or not one actually does)?

 

Depends on what exactly is being said and what exactly is happening as a result.  "Hey, Suzy has looked like crap lately.  I hear she's been battling the flu.  Let's remind everyone that, if they're sick, they should stay home until they're not contagious."  Nothing wrong with that.

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Okay, more to the point.  I doubt if they are speculating about whether I have the flu.

 

I suspect that they are speculating about whether or not I have MS given some of the issues I've been experiencing.

 

I do not have an answer to that question myself, nor do I wish to discuss it with my employer before, or maybe even after, I have any answers.

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The bottom line here is that based on what you have described, no laws are being violated.

 

If you have more detail, it is POSSIBLE but not for sure, that the answer may change.

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If someone is having health issues that are affecting or may affect his/her performance, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with management discussing those issues.  To the extent information from the person's co-workers may be relevant, there's nothing wrong with management discussing things with non-management personnel.

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How do they even know there are any issues to speculate about? People dont' just randomly start saying "oh, I think joe has MS. What do you think?"  Obviously they are seeing some signs somewhere that are out of the ordinary.  While you don't seem to want to discuss it with them, they are noticing.  And it might be better if you do request accommodations if you need them.

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8 hours ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

Okay, more to the point.  I doubt if they are speculating about whether I have the flu.

 

I suspect that they are speculating about whether or not I have MS given some of the issues I've been experiencing.

 

Has anyone mentioned MS specifically? If not, is there some reason you believe that is what you may have (other than perhaps your own fear that MS may be at issue)? You want to be careful not to assume more than what is actually occuring here. Hopefully it will turn out that whatever issue you have is less serious than that.

 

In any event, it is not illegal for the employees to tell HR of their concerns about your health or to discuss it among themselves. Nor is it illegal for the employer, though HR, to alert you to the fact that employees have raised that concern. The manner in which the HR person described it is apparently vague enough that it may only be one or two people that have noticed anything rather than being a topic  of general discussion. Keeping it vague is a classic way for HR to help avoid the issue of disclosing exactly who raised the concern. 

 

You work for the state. So the ADA would apply if it turns out you have a disability (or the employer perceives that you do). That means the employer cannot discriminate against you because of the disability and must offer reasonable accommodation when requested to help you overcome the limitations created by the disability. The employer does not have to excuse poor work performance, however, with or without a disability. The employer must keep medical records of the disabled employee confidential and should not disclose the disability to other employees except as needed to implement an accommodation.

 

You might have other protections under your state's laws and civil service rules. I also recall you are a member of a union, so the union might also offer some protection/help.

 

You do not know yet whether you have any disability and thus presumably do not know what accommodations you might need. So long as that remains the case telling the employer about this might not do you a lot of good, at least as long as your work performance remains satisfactory. But at any point where you see yourself starting to struggle with work you probably want to start getting any needed accommodations in place. One mistake disabled employees sometimes make is waiting too long to inform their employer of the disability and seek accommodation. The employee might want to try to prove to himself/herself that he/she can overcome the problem on his/her own, may not wish to disclose the disability, or maybe not even readily acknowledge the disability himself/herself, all of which is understandable. But you want accommodations in place to help you continue to perform well before performance suffers. The ADA does not require an employer to overlook poor performance, so waiting until after your peformance suffers before raising the disability can lead to problems.

 

Whatever is going on healthwise, I hope you have a good outcome. 

 

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Thank you TA, that was helpful.

 

I have seen a neurologist.  The neurologist said there is not enough history yet to make a diagnosis.  I have had a couple of episodes of unexplained muscle weakness and other symptoms that could also be plenty of other things too.  The neuro mentioned MS but said it is too soon to make that diagnosis.  Basically they have to rule out everything else first, which has not been done yet.  They did tests and ruled out a brain tumor etc.  They said I had low levels of potassium & told me to eat more bananas which I am doing.  But basically right now it is wait & see.  They said it could completely go away and I might never have any other issues.  Or lots of other things.  They also tested me for other stuff that was all negative. 

 

My co-workers noticed not because I was unable to do my work but because of a dumb episode on a hot day where a number of people all had to go to another location.  I wanted to take my own car, which I knew I could do, but my boss insisted that everybody go in his SUV.  I really didn't want to but everybody kept saying oh come on let's go, we're going to be late, hurry up (etc., etc.).  The problem is that the SUV is a very high vehicle with a large step up and on that particular day I couldn't lift my legs high enough to get into the vehicle.  I tried to pull myself up with my arms but didn't have a good grip and in the end with everybody watching I wound up having to basically roll onto the floor in the back and then hike myself up into a seat, which was hard.  It seemed like the more embarrassed and humiliated I was the less my body wanted to cooperate, which could just be psychological.  I wound up  having to have co-workers help pull me into a seat.  It was horribly embarrassing.  After that they started noticing every little thing about how I walk or move or if I ever drop anything, etc..

 

Most of the time I feel pretty much fine, or if I notice anything it would only be noticeable to me if everybody else wasn't watching me like a hawk.  I am getting to hate going to work because I feel like people are just waiting to "catch me" dropping something or tripping over a carpet or something.  I hope I don't have MS but the neuro said even if I do there are some very effective drugs for treating the symptoms of it now, but I don't have that diagnosis yet.

 

Mostly I just want people to leave me alone.  Whatever the problem is, I feel that its personal and I don't want it to be a subject of workplace discussion or speculation.

 

Union:  I was a Union steward years ago but my Governor effectively killed off public sector employee Unions in 2011.  I am no longer in or represented by a Union and there is no Union contract.  There are only a couple of smaller Unions left and mine is not one of them.

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Presumably there have been other instances at work as one situation a few months ago would be long forgotten if that were it. Asking everyone to overlook and ignore your symptoms is unreasonable. Better to have some sort of polite but brief script when something happens. Most will understand if you explain you are under the care of a doctor but are still fully capable of working and would appreciate it if they would respect your privacy as you work toward a diagnosis and treatment. 

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The main point here is this person, your friend, who is working in the HR. If he had access to your medical information then The HR and the company could be liable for giving out confidential information under the federal Laws. 

If he's just repeating what he has heard from other people and he had no access to your records and he just happens to be working in the HR, is totally different. The federal guidelines are very strict for the human resources department in a company, They know their liability and I don't think a person would disseminate information obtained thru the HR knowingly. You should clarify the information from your friend directly by confronting. What you're doing is guessing and fretting on things that could be hearsay.

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1 hour ago, JackOfAll said:

The HR and the company could be liable for giving out confidential information under the federal Laws

What law would that be?  It wouldn't be HIPAA  since that only applies to medical practitioners and has no provision for penalties.  So, what law are you referring to?

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HIPAA protects health information obtained in the administration of a health care plan, so if self insured, HR *may* have HIPAA protected information. ADA also has a privacy provision but it is not as broad as you are describing and it doesn't appear to apply here as no accommodation or disability information has been sought or shared.

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Okay, thank you everybody.

 

It is embarrassing to even write about this here.

 

My main symptom is that sometimes my legs feel abnormally heavy like as if they are 100 lb rocks instead of legs, and sometimes gripping things when I have to squeeze hard to do it is a challenge (like using a manual can opener).  But those are mostly internal feelings, not something others would notice outwardly unless they were really watching me, which it often seems like they are.  Yes, when my legs feel like 100 lb concrete blocks I change my routine a little.  Like if I have to walk around the office or the building picking up documents or mail or something I plan my route before I go so that I only have to get up and walk around once instead of several times, and I plan the shortest route with the least steps before I do it.  When I schedule meetings I schedule them closer to my office instead of on a different floor or in a different building.  I come in early so that I can park as close as possible to the building instead of a long way away.  Sometimes when I stand up it takes an extra couple of seconds to make sure I have my balance and am mentally prepared to put the extra effort into each step because if I just jump up and don't think about it ahead of time that makes me more likely to trip or stumble.   

 

Honestly, I know I'm doing these things but unless somebody was particularly eyeballing me trying to "catch" me doing them I don't think anyone would notice.  They do not affect my work.  For example a couple of weeks ago I had to give an hour long presentation standing up and on that particular day my legs weren't feeling totally wonderful and I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, but I did.  Some times I feel almost totally normal and then some other days are not as great, but I really don't think it is affecting my work and I don't want my health to be a topic of workplace conversation. 

 

I also applied for a promotion recently that I know I was qualified for and I didn't get it.  There could be a million reasons why not.  Maybe I think more highly of my own qualifications than I should, or maybe my interview went a lot worse than I thought it did.  But I get paranoid that maybe I didn't get it because of the rumors and speculations about my health, and I hate that.  I'd rather be told that I didn't get it because I'm not qualified than "suspect" that I didn't get it for some reason related to office speculation about my health. I would never know if somebody on the hiring committee might have commented something like, "Yes, but this is a demanding job, is she really up to it, y'know, physically?" unless somebody leaked that info, which nobody has.   But the reason I was given was strange.  They said that "at a different time" I'd be a great fit for that position but "the timing wasn't right" so they selected somebody else.  What does that mean?  (I wasn't offered any further explanation.)  It's frustrating.

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19 hours ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

 Honestly, I know I'm doing these things but unless somebody was particularly eyeballing me trying to "catch" me doing them I don't think anyone would notice. 

 

From my own experience I would say they may notice something is wrong even if they don't notice everything you are doing to adjust to these symptoms. Many years ago I started having problems with a condition that turned out to be fairly serious as time went on. I didn't know what it was at first and it took a lot of testing to finally find it. I was losing weight though not really rapidly (maybe a pound a week or less) and had some other problems but thought that at least in the early months it wasn't noticeable that something was wrong. My work was still the same and for the most part I thought I acted and looked the same. Yet my co-workers did notice that something was amiss and asked me if I was ok. I was evidently just not the same as I was before, and even if they couldn't precisely indentify what the changes were, they still could sense a difference. It's easy to think we are doing a good job hiding things like this because from our own perception we think we are projecting the same image as before. The problem is that we don't see what others see in us, and as a result we don't catch the things they see.

 

20 hours ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

But the reason I was given was strange.  They said that "at a different time" I'd be a great fit for that position but "the timing wasn't right" so they selected somebody else.  What does that mean?  (I wasn't offered any further explanation.)  It's frustrating.

 

Yes, that is an odd explanation. But having worked in government myself, that kind of explanation is what I expect to hear when there has been some politics involved in deciding who gets the job. Even in government, despite the civil service rules that are in place, there are still hirings and promotions made based on office politics — who is the favorite of the person doing the hiring, who fits the particular agenda of the day, or whatever. That doesn't mean that rumors of your health didn't play a part; there is just no way to know absent an admission by someone who did the hiring. But it is quite possible that your health had nothing to do with it and that some kind of politics did. 

 

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Thank you Tax.  You are of course right.  I suspect you are a very good lawyer because you have a way of explaining things so that even if the listener doesn't want to agree with you it's hard to deny that what you are saying makes sense.

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3 hours ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

Thank you Tax.  You are of course right.  I suspect you are a very good lawyer because you have a way of explaining things so that even if the listener doesn't want to agree with you it's hard to deny that what you are saying makes sense.

 

Thank you. ? 

 

Having to explain tax law to upset taxpayers/clients over the years is good training for that. No one likes to hear they have to pay more tax. I may not make them feel good about it, but at least when I'm done they understand why it is the way it is. 

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Follow-up:  When I had a spinal tap they discovered that my spinal fluid was infected with Lyme Disease. Then they found heart and kidney abnormalities consistent with Late Lyme Disease.  So  I am starting on 3-4 weeks of IV antibiotics (gee, happy holidays) and working from home part time. So much for keeping my personal health issues private. At least I have good health insurance and I can have the IV treatment at home. 

 

They don't know if Lyme Disease is what caused all my symptoms or not, but the Lyme Disease needs to be treated either way, and the neuro thinks there is a good chance that may do the trick. I hope so.

 

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21 hours ago, FormerLegalSecy said:

They don't know if Lyme Disease is what caused all my symptoms or not, but the Lyme Disease needs to be treated either way, and the neuro thinks there is a good chance that may do the trick. I hope so.

 

 

I wish you the very best on that. My oldest sister has had suffered from Lyme disease for many years; they have tried all kinds of things and nothing has helped much. Another sister has a friend with very severe Lyme disease that has also lasted for years and no successful treatment has been found. In both cases though it took a long time to discover even what they had; much less was known about it then than now. If the disease is discovered early enough apparently it is much easier to treat and there is the potential to get rid of it altogether. I hope that is the outcome for you. But you are right, it does need the prompt treatment to have your best shot, so I'm glad your insurance will cover all this and that you can work from home part of the time.

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I'm sorry to hear about your sister and your other sister's friend, Tax.  I don't really know much about Lyme Disease but I'm learning more about it now.  My dr mentioned that there are a couple of ongoing clinical trials for people who've already been treated but still have symptoms.  I am being treated as an outpatient at a research and teaching hospital so I had asked about clinical trials. I'm hoping I won't ever be eligible for them (treated but still have symptoms) but maybe your sister and your other sister's friend should ask about that?  They have my sympathy, it is definitely no fun.

 

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