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Disclosing Pregnancy

A terminated employee wrote an anonymous email to the owner of our company and disclosed an existing employee’s pregnancy. Besides being amazingly ethically wrong, is there anything illegal about this?

A previous employee has no right to disclose another individual’s medical condition to anyone. Unless the previous employee is covered under HIPAA, her disclosure of personal information wasn’t unlawful, just amazingly unethical as you state.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that covered entities comply with requirements to protect the privacy and security of health information. Covered entities are health care clearinghouses, certain health care providers, and health plans. Common covered entities include doctors, clinics, company health plans and government programs that pay for healthcare.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects “individually identifiable health information”, including data that relates to:

• an individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
• the provision of health care to an individual, or
• the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual;

and data that identifies an individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify an individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).

The Privacy Rule doesn’t regulate every employer, only those considered covered entities. An employer is not defined as a covered entity just by being any employer or by offering group healthcare coverage.

Basically, a HIPAA violation only occurred if the previous employee is a covered entity who disclosed protected health information.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 7:45 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management.
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