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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
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Experience:  Lawyer
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I have a question regarding Hippa. I am a paramedic. A Snake

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I have a question regarding Hippa. I am a paramedic. A Snake Bite patient of mine asked my partner to take a photo of the bite and asked if it could be posted so he could get it off of Facebook. She agreed. I also posted the photo in the event that he looked me up instead of her. The photo contained no identifying information, was focused closely on the bite area which happened to be the foot. My employer gave me a written reprimand and 12 hours unpaid suspension for use of a cell phone (which I did not, my partner did) during a call & for having the photo on FB stating it was a hipaa violation. He justified this by saying people know I work for the city of..., so they can automatically assume this person is a resident in the city and there for violates hipaa. My understanding of hipaa is different, I am wondering if the actions of my employer are correct or If I have the ability to dispute this. I have been dealing with targeting and harassment and slander at work for over 3 years now from a select group of coworkers one of which is now my supervisor, It started my first day working here. I have other instances that have been written up for policies I did not break but were a far reach from the actual infraction (delayed response from not hearing a call turned into a write up for failure to complete a shift and insubordination). I am at wits end but cannot give up, the job means to much to me. I feel like they are trying to stack papers against me. I need help & learning if this hipaa infraction is legit should help. Thank you.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

HIPAA protects against the unauthorized disclosure of "individually identifiable heath care information." A picture of a foot really doesn't fall within that definition. Even if it is possible for someone viewing the picture to realize that it's a picture of a person who lives in your city, assuming that most people in your city have feet, there's no real way to tell who it is.

Here's what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has to say: "Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:
  • the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
  • the provision of health care to the individual, or
  • the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual,
and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual." When they're talking about identifiable information, they're talking about name, address, social security number, date of birth, etc.

So, while you may have violated your employer's policy, this doesn't fall within HIPAA's guidelines.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
so if my companies policy reads "All personnel have an obligation to conduct themselves in accordance with the health insurance portability and accountability act(HIPAA), and ________ EMS policies that have been enacted to address patient confidentiality. Personnel are advised to consult appropriate HIPPA policies for additional Information" it would be safe to assume this policy was infact not broken?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
The HIPAA portion of that has not been broken. I would need to know what the EMS confidentiality policies for your city are to comment on that part.
Lucy, Esq. and 8 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Ok, thank you. In regards XXXXX XXXXX targeting and harassment & fairness, would you be well equiped to handle EEO questions or would you be able to recommend someone?


Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
I can answer them, and I'd be happy to, but because that's outside the scope of the original question, I have to ask you to open a new question in the Employment Law category. If you put "For Lucy" in the subject line, I'll get it.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Perfect, thank you. Wasnt sure if i could ask that after clicking accept. I do understand it will fall under another question. Want you to get credit :) These will all fall under the unlimited subscription I hope! and I very much hope you can help me with this. It has gotten to the point it is causing anxiety and literally making me ill to come to work. I have NEVER experienced anything like this. All because of what a few girls did on my first day. I am a professional, and need to figure out how to make this place a fair place to work again. I have 4 small children, all under 6, to provide for so this is not a game for me. I think I have let it go on for way to long, and need whatever advice you can give. I wish I had more time to research it myself but I just dont.
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Thank you very much for accepting my Answer. If you have an unlimited subscription, yes, all of the questions fall within that. You have to click "Accept" so I get credit, but you only pay the monthly fee that you agreed to.

I'm sorry that you're having so much trouble. I'll keep an eye out for your other question, when you're ready.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok, I think this will work for submitting another question. It gives the option to accept and states it will charge again. Last month I received a write up for a facebook comment post. It was a vent post about running emergency traffic accross town leaving the city with only one ambulance for a non emergency transfer. We do not have an active facebook or social network policy in place, although they are working on adding one. The post did not name the city or the location of the call. Again, the supervisor stated that because I work for the city people can make assumptions. I guess my question is, can I be reprimanded at work for a personal opinion or posting it on a social network? Does it fall under freedom of speech or anything along those lines?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Unfortunately, yes, you can be reprimanded at work for comments posted on a social networking site or elsewhere on the internet. This actually isn't new - an employee could always be reprimanded for comments made in his free time that tended to reflect poorly on the employer. The only difference is, now, when it's posted on the internet, it's available forever and anyone can see it. So, they can reprimand you for it. In this case, it actually wouldn't make a difference if you didn't state the city by name, because most people (at least, your friends) on Facebook will know where you live or work. You may want to consider adjusting your Facebook privacy settings so your employer can't see them, but even that's no guarantees, as any one of your friends could print out comments. It's an even better idea not to post work-related comments online.

Unfortunately, this doesn't fall under freedom of speech. The First Amendment says that the government can't pass laws that restrict freedom of speech, but not all speech is protected. This doesn't prevent an employer from terminating an employee based on comments that are made - even if the employer happens to be a government entity.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

everyone I work with is blocked from all photos, status updates and comments. it is sad to have to do so because most employees here make comments regarding work often, the main difference is nobody printed theirs and turned it in.


Thank you.

I will have a few more questions headed your way.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
It really is too bad that this happened - especially if you don't know who's printing the comments.

I'd be happy to Answer more questions for you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

The director said they do not have to reveal who printed it so I didnt push it. So including those who are friends outside of work also, I blocked everyone.


I clicked to accept answer and it said it is going to charge the card on file an additional $28.00. The unlimited answers is turned on, how do I make sure your getting credit without charging multiple charges to my card?


Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Your card shouldn't be charged again, but I'll ask Customer Service to double-check for you. I can't see the specifics of your account.

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