Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
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It is not a HIPAA violation if the employee consented to the release of this information, which she most likely did because the information increases the likelihood of her UI claim getting approved. You could report the violation to the Department of Health & Human Services (the entity responsible for enforcing HIPAA) and have them investigate. If they find there was no consent (highly doubtful given that the coworker probably would not have even known about the UI claim unless the employee told her about it and asked for the letter of support) they may issue a penalty.
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Thank you for your reply. I am confused by what you mean when you say "the unauthorized disclosure was about the physician condition not the employee' and the MD did not authorize the disclosure." Perhaps there is a typo there? Can you rephrase the situation?
Thank you for explaining, I understand much better now.
First, regardless of whether there was a HIPAA violation, the unemployment office can still consider the information presented to it in violation of HIPAA. The HIPAA violation would mean that the employee who committed the violation may be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution. If they are licensed by a state licensing agency, their licenses may be suspended or revoked. There is no private cause of action for violation of one's HIPAA rights, so you cannot sue for personal damages stemming from the violation. You can, however, report the matter to the DHH and have them investigate. That would be your recourse under the circumstances.
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Was there anything else I can do?