Is This Legal?

  1. I have been working for my current employer for 2 months. I have had a myriad of health problems from the get-go. I'm not sure, nor are the doctors (they're guessing auto-immune). Currently I have swollen, red/purple, very painful ankles. I was seen Thursday with just redness and slight swelling (with difficulty walking). Labs only showed slightly abnormal SED rate, 22. On Saturday, my ankles swelled, very very red, hot to the touch. Painful, can't walk. As wide as my calf muscles. Repeat labwork, nothing showed. But SED was 34.

    The ER doc is guessing vasculitis. PMD says no, cellulitis. Been on Keflex almost 36 hours, getting worse. Returning to PMD today. Have had work slips for this time off....but I need to get back to work. I'm in so much pain, getting worse, not happy with being off of work b/c I have three kids to support. I'm freaking out.

    Now to my question: Prior to the onset of this, 2 wks prior to be exact, I was out d/t sinusitis/bronchitis, high fever, nausea/vomiting. Was on a course of doxycyline, and two days left to go on it, developed this "cellulitis".

    Anyway, when I had the bronchitis, my boss called me at home to tell me, "I've called your former boss at the agency you worked at. I said, 'How was she for you?' Your boss said you were great. So what I'm wondering is, are you happy here? I mean, frankly you're not what I expected. I don't want to put you on the schedule if it's going to make you sick."

    Is it even legal to call a former boss inquiring about my work with them, after I've been working there two months? Legal or not, it really hurt my feelings. I don't like being sick. I have a strong family hx of auto-immune diseases, and the urgent care doctor happened to ask me if I'd been worked up for Lupus.

    I'm upset. I'm scared. So nervous that I'm having lots of crying spells at home, lots of anxiety, heart palpitations, stomach pain, particularly when it growls. Gives new meaning to the word "hunger pains".

    I want to confront my boss. I do have doctor's slips which I've faxed to her. The doc said, "No way" to working. It's not like I'm vacationing and enjoying myself. I'm just worried sick and in a LOT of pain. To walk is killing me.

    Wouldn't you feel horrible if your boss went behind your back and called your former employer? That all should've been done when she hired me, not two months after.

    Do you have any suggestons for me on what I could say to her? Or is what she did perfectly legal and logical? It just feels awful, to have your integrity questioned....

    Thank you so much for your insight you may have.
    Sincerely,
    Emma
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  2. 24 Comments

  3. by   Tweety
    Not sure if it's legal, because it does sound a bit more than checking references. But it does sound like she's concerned for you and naturall has self-interests in staffing the unit.

    Take care of yourself first and foremost.
  4. by   sharona97
    So sorry to hear of this happening to you. I am under the understadning that if an employer calls an ex-employer, the only language that can be discussed is if they (the ex emplyer) would consider you back as a rehire. That can change state to state I'm sure and I don't know about the time lines. It does seem weird she would call her when you are out ill.

    I am disabled and all to familiar with humilation, intimidation tactics that management can use. I was told when I kept going to work sick (undiagnosed), after all we have done you....................what misdiagnosis me, then they set me up to get me fired.

    Try to take a deep breath, you're in control, you have a million thoughts of what if right now but I do know in MN a person can't be terminated (legally) with a "medical termination". Which of course that is the wording they used and I received compensation unemployment from them. Follow your doctor's order',s you need to get better. The people who give you the most grief and anxiety have not walked a day in your shoes esp when you become seriously ill. Hang in there.

    I hope you are better soon.

    Sharona
    Last edit by sharona97 on Oct 15, '07 : Reason: what else spelling
  5. by   UM Review RN
    Emma, I hope you're feeling better. Many of us have been in your position, and it's difficult, but you'll get through it. There are lots of jobs out there for good nurses and you sound like a good nurse to me.

    I also think that your boss should not have called your former boss and asked about your personal health and work habits. Seems unethical to me. Whether it's done under the guise of "concern" or not, I'm also not sure it's legal to do that.

    I'd also think about whether I want to work for someone who'd resort to tactics like that when I'm ill.

    Think about it.

    Praying you have a speedy recovery over here.
  6. by   chris_at_lucas_RN
    Quote from Emma123
    I have been working for my current employer for 2 months. I have had a myriad of health problems from the get-go. I'm not sure, nor are the doctors (they're guessing auto-immune). Currently I have swollen, red/purple, very painful ankles. I was seen Thursday with just redness and slight swelling (with difficulty walking). Labs only showed slightly abnormal SED rate, 22. On Saturday, my ankles swelled, very very red, hot to the touch. Painful, can't walk. As wide as my calf muscles. Repeat labwork, nothing showed. But SED was 34.

    The ER doc is guessing vasculitis. PMD says no, cellulitis. Been on Keflex almost 36 hours, getting worse. Returning to PMD today. Have had work slips for this time off....but I need to get back to work. I'm in so much pain, getting worse, not happy with being off of work b/c I have three kids to support. I'm freaking out.

    Now to my question: Prior to the onset of this, 2 wks prior to be exact, I was out d/t sinusitis/bronchitis, high fever, nausea/vomiting. Was on a course of doxycyline, and two days left to go on it, developed this "cellulitis".

    Anyway, when I had the bronchitis, my boss called me at home to tell me, "I've called your former boss at the agency you worked at. I said, 'How was she for you?' Your boss said you were great. So what I'm wondering is, are you happy here? I mean, frankly you're not what I expected. I don't want to put you on the schedule if it's going to make you sick."

    Is it even legal to call a former boss inquiring about my work with them, after I've been working there two months? Legal or not, it really hurt my feelings. I don't like being sick. I have a strong family hx of auto-immune diseases, and the urgent care doctor happened to ask me if I'd been worked up for Lupus.

    I'm upset. I'm scared. So nervous that I'm having lots of crying spells at home, lots of anxiety, heart palpitations, stomach pain, particularly when it growls. Gives new meaning to the word "hunger pains".

    I want to confront my boss. I do have doctor's slips which I've faxed to her. The doc said, "No way" to working. It's not like I'm vacationing and enjoying myself. I'm just worried sick and in a LOT of pain. To walk is killing me.

    Wouldn't you feel horrible if your boss went behind your back and called your former employer? That all should've been done when she hired me, not two months after.

    Do you have any suggestons for me on what I could say to her? Or is what she did perfectly legal and logical? It just feels awful, to have your integrity questioned....

    Thank you so much for your insight you may have.
    Sincerely,
    Emma
    First, Emma, I am so sorry you are feeling so awful, and frightened!

    I can tell you my first impulse would also be to confront my boss, but, being on the outside of this crisis situation, I have to ask--do you want to keep that job? It sounds to me as though she is not the warmest, and she is looking for a way out. Someone who looks out for the unit more than for her nurses is not a people person. "You aren't what I expected" is not something most of us would say to someone who is feeling so badly! I think most of us would be doing something like "what can we do to help you?"

    Now, I'm not saying this to talk you out of staying there or to talk you into quitting or anything like that.

    I am looking at that as a reason to be cautious with your boss, if you want to keep that job. Find out if there are any resources she can help you with, partner with her about any sit-down work you might do for the hospital so you can come back maybe part time.

    NOW, and maybe more important, you need to get a handle on the stress and anxiety. You do sound miserable, but your worry and stress is going to make all that a lot worse. Your physician should be able to provide something nonnarcotic and non-benzoid, and your insurance may cover some short term counseling. If not, there will be community agencies who can provide on a sliding scale, and in this situation, you can probably wangle "free."

    Your original question, is this legal, probably yes. She hasn't broken the law, she hasn't treated you differently based on any protected characteristic (race, gender, national origin, religion, etc.), and she apparently didn't tell anything that was protected information about you.

    Do take care of yourself. And keep us posted. You'd be surprised the number of people who will have read this and even if they didn't post a response, are hoping hard for you (some are praying!) that this will resolve and you will feel better and be back to work....SOON!
  7. by   fmrnicumom
    Emma,

    I don't know whether it is legal or not, but do agree that it seems a bit odd. I hope you are able to find out soon what is going on with your health. I know it can be difficult not knowing what you are dealing with. I wish you the best of luck and happiness. Please keep us posted.

    Tiffany
  8. by   deeDawntee
    I think it may certainly be illegal for your current boss to call your former boss both after you've already been working there for so long and to ask those questions. I would document everything you can think of and have it all on hand in case you need to get a lawyer at some point in this situation you are facing.

    I am soooo sorry that you are facing an unknown health issue. (I am in a similar situation right now as well, with a possible diagnosis of MS). It is terrifying and overwhelming. I have to remind myself that the first and foremost important thing is to get an accurate diagnosis and then treatment that makes a difference can begin and things will start getting better. Nursing jobs will always be there. That is one very good thing about our profession. It is so good to know we will be in demand in a myriad of different places if it comes to that. It is really important to take care of yourself first, do what you need to do to get the treatment you need, then everything else will fall into place.

    I am sending you hugs and prayers and hopes that we both see good health soon.

    :icon_hug:
  9. by   EmmaG
    I agree, it's certainly unethical. It may even be illegal. It wouldn't hurt to get an expert opinion on this; does this fall under HIPAA or other privacy law?
  10. by   CHATSDALE
    i don't know what state you are in or whether or not you have a unioni think that hippa is in regard to patient to anyone who has an access to your information
    certainly not ethical if she also shared your info with former employer
    when i had cellulytis i only had it on one side but don't know if this is typical or not but i had the cellulitis intermittently for a couple of years
    tried everything, different antibiotics, finally went away on its own
    i hope that you feel better soon, ignore the don and concentrate on your health
    there are a lot of people out there who consider themselves s freud
    once i was out with surgery when i came back to work i had a cold
    which the co-workers immedicately decided that i was an indication that i didn't want to come back to work..the fact that it had gone around the rest of the family and was just a plain cold was something they couldn't comprehend
  11. by   ebear
    Emma123,
    I don't know the state in which you live. If it comes to a major problem, I would suggest an appt. with an employment attorney. In the meantime, get thee to a Rheumatologist!!
    ebear
  12. by   wjf00
    If you qualify, you may want to use FMLA. If you can use FMLA your job is safe.
  13. by   pirap
    Your current employer can call any or ALL previous employers if they want to and ASK ANY QUESTIONS THAT THEY WANT...but your PREVIOUS employers can only answer questions like length of employment, pay rate, hirability, etc or what is legal in their particular state. It's pretty crappy that she would tell you that she did that though. Take care of yourself because your kids need you more than an unethical boss. Things have a way of working out in the end..
  14. by   Emma123
    Thank you all for your thoughtful and warm advice and concern. I called my PMD today. He said to get to the ER. I did. My SED rate today was 54. RA factor was negative. Awaiting ANA/ANC. Have appt Wed to discuss the final results with PMD. They gave me some toradol; that helped. Pain medicine, sent me on my way.

    Don't know why, but started to cry when he was taking my IV out. Guess that when I think of all the nasty things I have seen friends, and my Mom go through with Lupus makes this a scary thing for me. Of course I don't know yet that that is what it is but the doc said, "This is certainly not an infectious process." I asked him if I should remain on the Keflex, then. He said yes, not to stop it once I've started it.

    Just giving an update....

    Anyway, about the boss. I called her from the ER today to tell her that I was getting some more testing done. She told me to have them test for group B strep. I told her that my CBC was fine, and what the doc said. She said, "Hmmm. Well keep me posted." She didn't seem nasty, just not "people friendly" as someone had mentioned in a post.

    I will keep all of my documentation. (CYA, I know). I just have my guard up right now. I don't trust her. I hate to say it, but it's how I feel. I do need this job, mainly because of the benefits that I must have now, especially facing whatever will be coming my way here.

    I like the idea of FMLA, and if it comes to it I will have no choice....but never thought of it, so thank you for that also. My biggest problem is how to feed the kids. I did call the school and they are temporarily getting free breakfast and lunch. That helps a LOT. But then there's Christmas around the corner. How scary. I worked so hard to be a nurse so that I knew I could provide for them. As we know, however, life doesn't discriminate....we never know when our health may take a nosedive.

    Thanks for the advice and know that I really appreciate all of you taking the time to help me out here. That's what nursing is all about. Compassion....thank you so much.

    Dawn....I sure will be saying a prayer for you too. I'm so sorry to hear that you have to go through the waiting process, the worry, the fear of the unknown. But you are right....getting proper dx is key, so that proper tx can begin and hopefully we'll both be able to continue doing what we love....Thanks for your support, too.

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