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Terminated for Violation - HELP!

Posted

I'm actually not new to Allnurses but I created a new account, as I can't take too many chances of someone recognizing me. I'm sorry, it's just a complicated situation.

So without revealing too many details, I was recently terminated for being accused of a HIPAA violation. A patient's family member accused me of saying things to the patient in an area of the office that other people could overhear. No one else confirmed this, the patient did not complain, and I disputed the claim. My manager fought to keep my job, as did the HR department. Legal basically said that the complainer was threatening a lawsuit and it would be better if I was terminated.

I'm absolutely at a loss. My biggest issue is that at the clinic I worked for the offices were tiny and people in wheelchairs couldn't fit in with the door closed. That's basically what happened here and it has been complained about by the staff multiple times. I can't tell you how many times this was discussed and we told our managers that it was a very bad thing. It still has not been corrected and probably won't be any time soon so any other nurse in that dept has the danger of this happening to them.

I guess I have two questions. One, what in the world should I put on applications as to reason for termination? I have excellent references and reviews but I feel like this is going to hang over my head like a stone. Every person I worked with is in shock, continues to say what an amazing nurse I am, and the general consensus is "if they can do it to her, they can do it to anyone". Two, should I report the clinic for not correcting an issue that is only going to cause more potential HIPAA complaints in the future? Thank you for your help!

BeachsideRN, ASN

Specializes in NICU, Trauma, Oncology. Has 7 years experience.

Find out from HR what reason they are listing for termination.

Contact a lawyer if you haven't already. I also hope you have your own insurance. When applying for jobs.... that is a tough one. I would not mention the HIPAA violation complaints though. Just say it the employer felt as though it wasn't a good fit at the time, and maybe list some other reason. Hope it all works out.

tarotale

Has 1 years experience.

my heart goes to you... that is ridiculous, and things like that is one of many reasons I regret nursing. We don't get any respect or laborer's rights like many other professions do. I second prnqday. I am no lawyer but in this country, one needs evidence for filed claims, and looks like they got jack rabbit's a-hole to prove anything. I bought NSO insurance recently for these kinds of reasons. I highly recommend it since it's cheap and you got someone to protect you. I hope things will work out for your best!

Find out from HR what reason they are listing for termination.

I was told at the time of my termination that they would only state my dates of employment and that I was discharged for cause, not the reason given. The HR rep also specifically said "we will not give you a bad reference". They really did not want this to end the way it did. Or at least that was the impression I was given.

Contact a lawyer if you haven't already. I also hope you have your own insurance. When applying for jobs.... that is a tough one. I would not mention the HIPAA violation complaints though. Just say it the employer felt as though it wasn't a good fit at the time, and maybe list some other reason. Hope it all works out.

Thank you. I did have insurance but let it lapse due to other issues. Trust me, I am kicking myself now. I was thinking about the "not a good fit" reason but many of my references still work there and I don't know how that would play out if they were called.

If possible, try to get personal phone numbers from your intended references. You never know who will answer the phone at the office and what they will say and why. I heard of at least one person being blacklisted by someone who answered the phone and misrepresented themselves.

iluvivt, BSN, RN

Specializes in Infusion Nursing, Home Health Infusion. Has 32 years experience.

Problem is that this may not be a HIPPA violation AT ALL. This sounds like an incidental exposure of information. If the clinic or hospital has put reason able safeguards in place and the environment or set up of the clinic allows for some lack of privacy that is not your fault at all. The privacy rule is not intended to impede or obtruct work flow or prompt delivery of care. If you are giving care in bed A and bed B hears a conversation about patient A's condition. .that is not a violation. It .may also not be a because the party or parties that heard would have to be able to put the PHI into context. If I heard my doctor prescribing bp medication to the patient in the next room at a clinic or in the ED.I do not know who that patient is. Also this is incidental disclosure. The interpretations of HIPPA have gone too far. I think you were made a scapegoats. .your employer did not advocate for you...bases their decision to fire you on fear and I would sue. Should they try to fix the doors. ..maybe. ..but perhaps it is not possible or they can't afford it. The patients should be told up front that due to the physical layout it is impossible to assure complete privacy.

Do you have proof that the complaints were taken to management (memos or staff meeting agendas)?

Also employment laws vary greatly by state. Which state do you work?

Also the threat from the family to sue is generally bogus unless they can show harm. Hipaa doesn't just let you sue wildly. Relief is provided by filing a complaint to the office of civil rights.

It is worth speaking about this to a really knowledgeable attorney depending on where you live.

Even more so if they haven't adjusted the physical space as of yet.

If possible, try to get personal phone numbers from your intended references. You never know who will answer the phone at the office and what they will say and why. I heard of at least one person being blacklisted by someone who answered the phone and misrepresented themselves.

I do have all personal contact info for my references. They are literally a supervisor, providers, and co-workers, if that tells you the reputation I had in that office. I had people coming out of the woodwork offering to be references. I think I'm more worried about them calling and getting HR and what will be said.

Problem is that this may not be a HIPPA violation AT ALL. This sounds like an incidental exposure of information. If the clinic or hospital has put reason able safeguards in place and the environment or set up of the clinic allows for some lack of privacy that is not your fault at all...

There has been no attempt to fix the issues or the offices. The offices are literally the size of a large walk-in closet, there is barely room for a desk and some chairs for the patients. More than one person has used the word "scapegoat" hearing of this situation and I am inclined to agree.

Do you have proof that the complaints were taken to management (memos or staff meeting agendas)?

Also employment laws vary greatly by state. Which state do you work?

Also the threat from the family to sue is generally bogus unless they can show harm. Hipaa doesn't just let you sue wildly. Relief is provided by filing a complaint to the office of civil rights.

It is worth speaking about this to a really knowledgeable attorney depending on where you live.

Even more so if they haven't adjusted the physical space as of yet.

There were certainly things said in emails and staff meetings but I have none of that now that I'm not an employee any longer. I don't want to say the state but I will say we have "at will employment" so I could be fired for my shoes being offensive to the eye and it wouldn't matter, as long as I'm not fired for a protected reason.

I have thought about calling an attorney but mostly I just want to move on. I just want to find another job and forget these people treated me so badly.

I was thinking of using something along the lines of: "Following a difference of opinion over a situation, it was determined that moving forward I would no longer be the best fit in the department". Does that sound ridiculous or evasive??

Wow! This blows my mind! I am so angry and frustrated, with your termination reasoning. So then all nurses in hospitals with 2 patients per room are at risk for this same type "HIPAA violation?" So many other examples I could give, where others are in close proximity to hear a conversation, even when spoken in a low voice. Guess we need to use hand held size white boards to communicate with our patients, from now on.

OP, I am very sorry this happened to you. I truly hope your employer does as they have told you they would, in regards to the reason why you left.

Good luck & best wishes to you!

MissyRN

Wow! This blows my mind! I am so angry and frustrated, with your termination reasoning. So then all nurses in hospitals with 2 patients per room are at risk for this same type "HIPAA violation?" So many other examples I could give, where others are in close proximity to hear a conversation, even when spoken in a low voice. Guess we need to use hand held size white boards to communicate with our patients, from now on.

OP, I am very sorry this happened to you. I truly hope your employer does as they have told you they would, in regards to the reason why you left.

Good luck & best wishes to you!

Actually we even had a "boogie board" purchased by another one of the nurses to help better communicate with our severely HOH pts, as opposed to almost yelling at them and allowing others to hear more easily. We took steps to keep our patients' confidentiality in check within the confines of our offices and I still came out on the short end. So frustrating and hoping to find a new position soon.

An attorney may not be able to get your job back etc but they may be able to negotiate your status of being let go for cause. If a new employer calls and is told you aren't eligible for rehire it will raise a ton of red flags.

If they fired you and haven't corrected to underlying problem a letter from an attorney may help with your being hired in the future.

"nice room you got there. sure would be a shame if someone reported it to the office of civil rights since you clearly know it is a hipaa violation and you fired my client over it but never fixed it"

And as long as the emails existed it doesn't matter if you have them or not the attorney would be able to get them during discovery.

We can't give legal advice on here but it is safe to say being let go for cause and being let go without cause can be a totally different world.

I do have all personal contact info for my references. They are literally a supervisor, providers, and co-workers, if that tells you the reputation I had in that office. I had people coming out of the woodwork offering to be references. I think I'm more worried about them calling and getting HR and what will be said.

You can't control what happens if they call the office and ask for HR, but if you list your reference's personal contact numbers you are at least being given the chance that they will talk to your references who will give the good scoop on you.

MrChicagoRN, RN

Specializes in Leadership, Psych, HomeCare, Amb. Care. Has 30 years experience.

I suggest contacting your local bar association, and ask be referres to an employment attorney. Usually this is that a very minimal cost, and they will meet with you for half hour or an hour, and can advise you where to go from there.