March 2012 Moms

Pregnancy & Work Question

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This is a question for anyone in HR or has experience with the laws pertaining to pregnancy in the workplace.


I don?t feel that I?m being discriminated against in the traditional sense, but I do feel that my supervisor is sharing information that is medical and therefore private information and cannot be shared with others legally (unless I choose to do so). 


I have overheard her sharing with others from other departments on campus (I work at a private university) that I am going on maternity leave in March, so she was able to hire her replacement (she?s retiring in June) now to begin training and have an extra set of hands while I?m gone. 


She also sent out an email introducing her replacement to our entire department (approximately 100 people) and said, ?Katie will be working primarily on the conference, assisting me with a couple other events, and assisting Wives Fellowship until she begins maternity leave (baby is due March 15).  She will be out of the office somewhere between 6-8 weeks.?  I don?t really have a problem with people knowing I?m pregnant or when I?m due, but I don?t feel that it?s appropriate and possibly illegal?which is where you come in.


I don?t want to make big waves with this, but I?m just not comfortable with this information being shared in such a free manner.  To my knowledge, pregnancy is considered a ?disability? and cannot be shared, just as you wouldn?t share with the entire department is someone had any other type of ?disability.?


Should I approach HR with this or talk directly with my supervisor (she?s not to thrilled I?m pregnant and leaving just before this major conference I?m planning)?  Do I have any reason do this or is it perfectly legal to do what she?s been doing?


TIA!

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Re: Pregnancy & Work Question

  • Sorry, but I cannot figure out how to get rid of all the stuff at the top of this post.  I've tried everything I could think of.
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  • I see why you're annoyed but I don't think what she's done has crossed the line to divulging medical information, which would be illegal. Your EDD and leave plans are going to affect your co-workers and are administratively relevant. But I would watch what I share with her since she seems like she has a big mouth. For example, if you find you need more maternity leave, have the doctor write a letter justifying your request but not explaining why. You don't need everyone asking you about your c-section scar or your baby's health condition or whatever. 
  • I believe your question has more to do with your HIPPA rights than pregnancy discrimination, and I'm not sure that sharing your due date would be a violation of this... if she was sharing a private medical condition related to your pregnancy, than yes, definitely.  I'm not sure if her informing fellow staff of your leave would violate HIPPA though - as this definitely isn't my area of expertise.

    Have you sat down with her to coordinate specifics of your leave?  Maybe this way you can let her know your plans on communicating your leave with fellow staff so she doesn't feel the need to do it for you.

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  • I'm sorry, but I think you are way overreacting.   IMO in order for be discrimination, it would have to be negatively affecting you in some way, and I just don't see how the things she's said would have a negative impact on you. Is she speaking about maternity leave in a derogatory manner? Does she indicate that you are placing them in a bad spot or that she feels negatively about you missing work for maternity leave?

    What would you have her say instead? In order to be prepared for your absence, she needs to hire the sub, she needs to communicate to your colleagues that you'll be gone. Would you rather her simply say you'll be taking a leave of absence? A disability leave? I'm just at a loss for how she would better handle this, unless I'm missing something in your post.

  • Just so I understand - you are upset that she is telling people that you are pregnant or that the reason for your leave is maternity leave, or both? What would you prefer she say to describe why you will be out of the office (or maybe you'd rather she say nothing)?

    I hope this question doesn't come off as snarky - just want to make sure I grasp the issue and what's making you uncomfortable.

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  • I work in healthcare, and this goes against HIPPA--health insurance portability and accountability act.  It basically is to protect you from having other people share any health information without your consent.  I'd talk to HR, and let them know that you are not comfortable with what happened.  Let them know you don't want to make waves, but that this made you feel uncomfortable.  They'll at the very least be able to file this so that you have a formal complaint should anything else come up.  Good luck!
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  • image TRobinetteter:
    I work in healthcare, and this goes against HIPPA--health insurance portability and accountability act.  It basically is to protect you from having other people share any health information without your consent.  I'd talk to HR, and let them know that you are not comfortable with what happened.  Let them know you don't want to make waves, but that this made you feel uncomfortable.  They'll at the very least be able to file this so that you have a formal complaint should anything else come up.  Good luck!

    But if the source of the information is OP, is it protected? If I tell my best friend I have a disease and she blabs it around, that's not a HIPAA violation. I suppose if OP's boss only knows she's pregnant because of information she received from HR, and her workplace is even subject to HIPAA protections, that might be a problem. But it's not like everyone is subject to HIPAA on every comment they make... [healthcare people, including person I'm quoting, please chime in here; HIPAA is a weird and wild place]

    DS 04.25.08 DS 03.14.12 missed m/c 9w1d :: 6.18.10 :: d&c | missed m/c 9w3d :: 11.2.10 :: d&c
  • Actually pregnancy is not considered a disability under the ADA, so unfortunately you are wrong there.

    YOU are not required to tell your supervisor or manager why you are taking leave but they can be free to communicate this information where it is necessary if you do commuincate it.

    Also HIPAA only applies to the medical field/health field it does not apply to lay folks in corporate or educational institutions.  You can only violate HIPAA if you work in a hosptial or doctor/patient environment. So, yeah no.

    My suggestion would be talking to your boss about it and just letting her know that you'd rather folks were less aware of your medical status.  However, I think you are making a mountain out of mole-hill with this.  It's fairly obvious you are pregnant, right?  So, people knowing when and how long you will be out is a problem why exactly? Principle?

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  • image mrs.gee:

    But if the source of the information is OP, is it protected? If I tell my best friend I have a disease and she blabs it around, that's not a HIPAA violation. I suppose if OP's boss only knows she's pregnant because of information she received from HR, and her workplace is even subject to HIPAA protections, that might be a problem. But it's not like everyone is subject to HIPAA on every comment they make... [healthcare people, including person I'm quoting, please chime in here; HIPAA is a weird and wild place]

    Big difference between a friend telling people and your boss.  I don't know the technical part of HIPAA, but I would think this is border line and talking to HR (without filing a formal complaint) won't hurt. 

    I had a similar, but different "uncomfortable" situation with me asking about a lactation room in my building.  I plan on BFing and wanted to know if there was a room designated for this in my building - the HR person then forwarded my direct question (didn't remove my name or anything, just pressed forward) on to the various administrative assistants in the building asking if there was a lactation room.  I immediately told the HR person that I wasn't comfortable with her sharing this information with others and she didn't see why I was concerned - and she works in HR!  I still don't have an answer to my question and I don't want to ask her again.

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  • image KatieMarie27:
    image mrs.gee:

    But if the source of the information is OP, is it protected? If I tell my best friend I have a disease and she blabs it around, that's not a HIPAA violation. I suppose if OP's boss only knows she's pregnant because of information she received from HR, and her workplace is even subject to HIPAA protections, that might be a problem. But it's not like everyone is subject to HIPAA on every comment they make... [healthcare people, including person I'm quoting, please chime in here; HIPAA is a weird and wild place]

    Big difference between a friend telling people and your boss.  I don't know the technical part of HIPAA, but I would think this is border line and talking to HR (without filing a formal complaint) won't hurt. 

    I had a similar, but different "uncomfortable" situation with me asking about a lactation room in my building.  I plan on BFing and wanted to know if there was a room designated for this in my building - the HR person then forwarded my direct question (didn't remove my name or anything, just pressed forward) on to the various administrative assistants in the building asking if there was a lactation room.  I immediately told the HR person that I wasn't comfortable with her sharing this information with others and she didn't see why I was concerned - and she works in HR!  I still don't have an answer to my question and I don't want to ask her again.

    I understand there is a difference between telling a friend and telling a boss, perhaps that was too extreme an example. My point was what LillyGrrl said: "Also HIPAA only applies to the medical field/health field it does not apply to lay folks in corporate or educational institutions.  You can only violate HIPAA if you work in a hosptial or doctor/patient environment. So, yeah no." (sorry do not know how to do multiple quotes.) I.e., HIPAA only applies to certain organizations and certain information and without knowing more about her employer and how this information got circulated, I'm not sure this is a potential HIPAA violation.

    Whether this is a violation of her company's HR policy or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is another matter. And regardless of all that, if she's just plain uncomfortable with how it was handled, she can go to her boss and discuss or go to HR if she is not comfortable talking talking to her boss. But there probably isn't any legal claim to be made here.

    DS 04.25.08 DS 03.14.12 missed m/c 9w1d :: 6.18.10 :: d&c | missed m/c 9w3d :: 11.2.10 :: d&c
  • I work in HR and this wouldn't be considered pregnancy discrimination or even discrimination with her ADA rights. It would fall under HIPAA though as pregnancy is a medical condition. That being said, your boss should have cleared it with you before she sent out an email. If you qualify for FMLA, your employer doesn't really need to inform everyone of when you will be out of the office. We have never done this with anyone that has gone out on a medical leave. And your position is protected for 12 weeks as well. If someone was going out of the office and we could move someone temporarily into that position while they were out, we would work with the employee prior to their leave and whomever we decided would be helping to fill that position in their absence. Maternity leave is really the outdated term, everything falls under FMLA now.

    Most of our employees are pretty open with their leave dates, so if I needed to send out an email to staff letting them know of changes during someone's absence it would be with the employee's blessing and knowledge before having done so. But again, I do feel that you are taking it a bit out of context. All she divulged was that you were pregnant, which I have been shouting from the rooftops, and being that you are due in March, I would assume most people could tell you are pregnant at this point and will be taking a leave shortly. Now if she were saying things like "she has GD and is being scheduled an induction, she's having a girl with a heart defect, etc." than I would be a bit more concerned that my medical information was being shared. Your employer does need to prepare for your absence, and sometimes that involves informing pertinent people to your being gone. When I have an employee out on FMLA, I inform the supervisor that they are out on FMLA and when the expected return to work day is and to let us know if we need to work out staffing arrangements. I hope that helps!

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  • I don't see the big deal she isn't sharing anything that important you are in fact leaving in march?  it is relevant to work that there will be someone else in your place, in fact it seems that your boss if being somewhat supportive of your pregnancy, no malice in the notifications of your absence.  If you don't want exact dates mention ask her to not mention it, I am a firm believer in you can't b!tch if you don't express you feeling, but in my opinion she isn't doing anything wrong.  Also if you don't have a problem with people knowing you are pregnant or when you are due why are you whining?  Do you just enjoy getting people in trouble for mundane things?
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  • This has nothing to do with HIPAA

    http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/index.html

    Please stop perpetuating false information.

    Go to the above link and click on who must follow and who doesn't have to follow. Or see below...

    Who Must Follow These Laws

    We call the entities that must follow the HIPAA regulations covered entities.  

    Covered entities include:

    • Health Plans, including health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans, and certain government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

    • Most Health Care Providers?those that conduct certain business electronically, such as electronically billing your health insurance?including most doctors, clinics, hospitals, psychologists, chiropractors, nursing homes, pharmacies, and dentists. 

    • Health Care Clearinghouses?entities that process nonstandard health information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard electronic format or data content), or vice versa.

    Who Is Not Required to Follow These Laws

    Many organizations that have health information about you do not have to follow these laws. 

    Examples of organizations that do not have to follow the Privacy and Security Rules include:

    • life insurers,
    • employers,
    • workers compensation carriers,
    • many schools and school districts,
    • many state agencies like child protective service agencies,
    • many law enforcement agencies,
    • many municipal offices.


  • image ne14pez:

    I work in HR and this wouldn't be considered pregnancy discrimination or even discrimination with her ADA rights. It would fall under HIPAA though as pregnancy is a medical condition. That being said, your boss should have cleared it with you before she sent out an email.

    This.  Your employer cannot disclose medical information about you without your permission.  My boss made this very clear to me when I told her I was pregnant. 

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  • She said who has helping her while you were out and gave dates.  I don't see why you would talk to anyone.  This is a big overreaction.  It's not like her email said, "hey everyone, so and so is having a baby and is due on this date.  yeah!!"  It was a work related email.  I think talking to anyone would only cause hard feelings.  You're going to have to work with this person, do you really want to piss them off because she informed the office of who would be working with her on a major project?
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  • Seriously?? Glad I don't have you as an employee.
  • Thanks for the feedback...this is the culmination of a series of events/comments (both pregnancy and non-pregnancy related) that my boss has made to me/others.  I started working here a week before I found out I was pregnant, and there are a lot of major changes happening in personnel in our department and I was supposed to be the "constant" through the transition...and then I tell her I'm pregnant toward the end of August, and she pretty much freaked out and has seemed unusually hard on me since then (I did talk to HR after I told her in August).

    As I said, I'm not looking to make waves, but just trying to protect my privacy. For most of the people who received this email or who were told in conversations in the office (some of whom I don't even know), it is not relevant that I will be on maternity leave (it's actually disability leave for me because I haven't worked here for 12 months, so I don't qualify for FMLA), when I'm leaving, and for how long.  That was my biggest issue and I just wondered how to best approach the fact that it made me uncomfortable - if it were an HR issue or just something I needed to speak to my boss directly about.

    It seems the consensus is I was probably overreacting, though I did leave a large part of the back history out.  Sorry if I came across as oversensitive or overreactive.

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