Human Resources/HIPAA violation?



I work for a prestigious university and medical center in oncology research. I have epilepsy- which I've been open about- but last year I began having some issues: I found that I was overwhelmingly sleepy, all day long. I would go to the bathroom just to have a few minutes of relief from it. I became concerned about narcolepsy since I already have a neurological condition.

Anyway, I fell asleep at my desk one day and I work in an environment where people are less than nice, an officemate called my manager so I would be caught. My manager called me in and I explained to her I as aware of the problem and already had an appointment with my neurologist the following week. After my appointment, my manager called me back in to ask what took place and what my neurologist said. I told her.

Months later, a colleague and I were talking and she brought up the incident and went on to talk about things I had only told my manager in her office. I questioned her as to how she knew all of that and she told me my manager had told other team members (also laughing about it).

I was simply shocked. Eventually I talked to someone a bit higher up and mentioned the incident and stated that I am not ashamed of having epilepsy and it is no secret but I do not want the details of my treatment, concerns and doctor appointments shared and discussed among team members. She took note but that was the end of things.

I've often wondered if this was a HIPAA violation and whether it was or wasn't, what would have been the appropriate response when I reported it?

Thank you!


Thank you for your question.   From what you stated, no, your medical information is not protected by HIPAA.  Your employer is not a covered entity.

If your doctor told co-workers, that would be a different story.  Employment health info is not protected in this context.    This is not to say your manager was in poor taste for discussing  your medical history.

See the link below for info on HIPAA.  There is also plenty of info online at any of the sites-- just type in HIPAA compliance.,...

I hope this helps and I hope your boss learns to keep a higher level of professionalism.   
If you feel it is appropriate,  tell the boss you just recently found out that only she could have recently disclosed your helath info and you dont appreciate it.  If needed when the boss denies this, you may need to be prepared to throw the other co-worker under the bus to substantiate how you know the info got back to you through this person with those private details.     You might let this person know ahead of time if you value their friendship at work.    Conflict like this can get messy.

Alternatively,  say nothing to your boss-- tell your friend what a jaggoff your boss must be for having no concern for your privacy and hope it gets back to her through the grapevine...   move on and learn who you can trust and under what circumstances.


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Brian Phillips


Foreign and US university students -*PLEASE*- DO NOT waste your time asking for my opinions, comments or analysis of your homework questions. Homework questions are not answered and are rejected. I am happy to help answer questions asked by employees and employers regarding United States based state and Federal wage and hour, OT, Fair labor standards, FMLA, COBRA, Recruiting, Interviewing techniques, employee manuals, discipline, terminations/quits, unemployment, HRIS rollout, Employee Leasing or Staffing company cost analysis, day to day scenarios, work situations and more. Essentially a well rounded HR generalist who operates Harvis, Inc., a human resource consulting and service business based in Northeastern Pennsylvania "NEPA".


At Harvis, Inc., we provide Human Resource products, services and advice to small businesses that may not have the time or resources to hire a full time HR department. For larger companies with HR managers in place, we compliment their expertise to help with time consuming or time sensitive projects like updating policy manuals, screening and interviewing and more. We make workplaces better by becoming that 1/2 person they need to help handle HR responsibilities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Formerly responsible for all Human Resource activity for a staffing agency with 2,500 annual employees as well as an employee leasing / PEO business with 1,500 annual employees. Designed and implemented the HR structure to support hundreds of clients in excess of $ 500 million in payroll volume over career in Human Resources.

* President 2006- Harvis Inc. HR Services * President 2010-13 Business Association of the Greater Shickshinny Area - Shickshinny PA * President 2013- ShickshinnyForward Not for Profit Community Long Term Revitalization Organization and former member of varios Chambers of Commerce and HR Taskforce, former President of NBC Business Club 2 years

Bloomsburg University - 1993 BS Marketing, Bloomsburg Pennsylvania and Luzerne County Community College - 1991 Business Administration, Nanticoke Pennsylvania

Awards and Honors
* Better than average - 20/10 vision * Bestowed with an occasional "Thank You" from clients and their employees.

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