Angela Smith (“Angela”), up until June of this year, worked as a nurse at Clearwater Hospital, in Clearwater, Pennsylvania. Angela had been employed by the hospital, as a union employee, for just over 3 years, and up until this incident had a spotless employment record. In the beginning of May, Angela was brought into her supervisor’s office and advised that someone had reported to the hospital administration, that she was overheard relaying information to a third party about someone who had come into the Emergency Room (“ER”) earlier that week (Angela was not permitted to know who it was making these allegations, but for purposes of this paper, I’ll call her Jane). According to Jane, she and Angela were both at Denny’s Bar over the weekend and Jane allegedly overheard Angela tell a third party that Jane’s friend Margaret Dixon (“Margaret”), had come into the ER last week. Angela’s supervisor then advised her that there would be an investigation into this allegation, because the passing on of such information to a third party, is in violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). The Privacy Rule standards address the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information. Angela told her supervisor that not only did she not say anything of the like to anyone, but that she had no knowledge whatsoever of Margaret’s visit to the ER, and that in fact, she did not even know Margaret period. There were only two people present at this initial meeting, Angela and her supervisor. A month later, Angela was terminated from Clearwater Hospital for her alleged violation of the HIPAA Act.
The issues here are wrongful termination and violation of an employee’s Weingarten rights. The right of employees to have union representation at investigatory interviews was announced by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1975 case (NLRB vs. Weingarten, Inc. 420 U.S. 251, 88 LRRM 2689). These rights have become known as... [continues]
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