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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 7649
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I am an RN in a hospital in San Diego, and have had my license

Customer Question

I am an RN in a hospital in San Diego, and have had my license about a year. I was called into the managers office today and told that when I discharged a patient on Tuesday night with all their paperwork, inadvertently a paper with another patients information was with the packet. The person returned the paperwork to the floor the next day. I am told that from now on I need to show the lead nurse my papeerwork to prevent it from happening again, but the manager said there would be more to come. Am I in danger of being fired? fined? losing my RN license?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am terribly sorry to hear that this innocent mistake has landed you in a bit of hot water.

First, you should rest assured that such a basic and innocent mistake will certainly not result in the revocation of one's nursing license, so that is a non-issue.

As far as being fired is concerned, unless you are a union member or have a contract which expressly guarantees a fixed term of employment, CA law presumes your employment to be "at will," and as such, can be terminated at any time for virtually any non-discriminatory reason, regardless of whether the basis is fair or even true. Thus, your employer would have the legal right to fire you over such a mistake.

That said, it is expensive to re-hire and re-train new employees, and if you were to be fired, you could generally file for unemployment which would affect your employer's unemployment insurance premium. This is to say that employers generally do not want to terminate employees any more than employees want to be fired, and so employers tend to be rationale about these sorts of decisions. No reasonable employer would terminate an employee over such a basic and innocent mistake.

So to summarize, the error you describe cannot form the basis for revocation of one's nursing license. While such error could likely form the basis for legal termination, since employers can generally fire employees for any reason at all, termination would be extremely unlikely, due to the administrative costs of hiring a replacement and the impact on your employer's unemployment insurance premiums.

Mistakes happen. Your employer will move past this, and I hope that my answer has given you the assurance you need to move past it, too.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes to you and thank you so much for coming to Just Answer.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

The hospital where I work is a union hospital. The thing I am also concerned about is fines that HIPPA governing board could levy on me, or the hospital, or imprisonment. Do you know anything about that?

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Sadie,

Thank you very much for your reply. If you are a union member, that may concievably provide you with additional protection, since most union contracts limit termination to "good cause" or "misconduct," and a single innocent HIPAA violation would be unlikely to rise to this standard. You would need to consult with your union rep for more information about the specific terms of your contract.

With regard to HIPAA fines, such fines are typically levied against the employer, not the employee, so the odds of any fine being something for which you'd be personally liable are extremely slim.

If a HIPAA violation is unintentional, and the employee by exercising reasonable diligence could not have known what he/she was doing (as likely would be found to be the case in a circumstance such as yours), the fine would typically be $100.

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. If I have answered your question, I would be very grateful for a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you.

Best wishes.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.
Sadie,

See here for more information about HIPAA fines: http://www.ama-assn.org//ama/pub/physician-resources/solutions-managing-your-practice/coding-billing-insurance/hipaahealth-insurance-portability-accountability-act/hipaa-violations-enforcement.page

Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. If I have answered your question, please don't forget to leave a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you.

Kindest regards.

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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq.
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Significant experience in all areas of employment law.