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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 117370
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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Im a supervisor for a MD business that is subject to HIPAA

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I'm a supervisor for a MD business that is subject to HIPAA regs.

Q1. If one of my employees called in sick to another supervisor that relayed to me that h/she had diarrhea and I send e-mail to company timekeeper and CC'd to other employees affected by the call-in including the reason for sickness; does this violate privacy? Please explain legality of this charge.

Q2. Am I permitted to ask employees if they'll make it to work the next day?

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

HIPAA applies to healthcare providers and insurers. There are exceptions in there when the provider is acting in the capacity of an employer and not provider, since employers need to disclose information as needed to conduct business and thus would not be a HIPAA issue. In your example, if an employee calls into a supervisor with an illness and nature of the illness as required by the employer, then the supervisor has the right to disclose that to those other employees/supervisors as necessary to conduct the business of the employer.

2) Yes, an employer is allowed to ask the employee their expected date of return. The employer can even ask for a medical note documenting the nature of the illness that caused an employee to miss work. This is permissible.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

In this case, I was reprimanded by the HR Department. The HR Director cited me in violation of the HIPAA regs in favor of the employee. The decision placing me at fault was based on the reasoning that it was alright for employee to disclose reason for being sick to the other supervisor but it was NOT alright for me to have typed it and sent it in the e-mail. According to your response, the treatment I received was improper. I don't have any more questions. Thanks.

Thank you for your response.

Unfortunately, companies subject to HIPAA frequently misunderstand the distinction between employer and provider in these cases and they can have policies that are even stricter than HIPAA, which is not prohibited by the law.

An employer's HIPAA policy can be more strict than HIPAA, but that does not mean your conduct violated HIPAA, it means only that it violated company policy, which you are also bound to abide by.

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