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Is it a HIPAA or employee rights violation for a facility to ask why a nurse cannot come in for her shift when she calls in?


Dear Nancy,

One of the hospitals where I work asks why an employee is calling in for a shift. This is personal. Is it a HIPAA or rights violation?


Dear Nancy replies:

Dear Margaret,

It is the employer’s right to ask an employee the reason when he calls in because he is not reporting to work for an assigned shift. Initially, since you are an employee and have been assigned a shift at the facility, the nurse manager is counting on you as part of the staff for that particular shift. Calling in reduces the nurse-patient ratio. This information provides time for the nurse manager to see if other staff can cover for your absence or if a float or agency nurse needs to be contacted to fill the void.

Second, because you are an employee, you are required to adhere to the employer’s policies and procedures concerning work, and one of those obligations is to be at work unless there is a good reason not to be, such as illness or an emergency, such as a family emergency or a death in the family. To ensure employees are not abusing the call-in policy, a reason for an absence is requested and documented. As an example, sick days are not infinite in number, particularly paid sick days. If an employee calls in with 22 sick days in a year and the employer only grants 12 sick days a year, the employer will not fund those days beyond the 12.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act applies to patients receiving care at a healthcare facility and their confidentiality and privacy rights. You are an employee and therefore HIPAA’s Privacy Rule does not apply to you.

Insofar as any other rights violations are concerned, if you think you are being singled out concerning the question of why you are calling-in because you have a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, or are older and cannot keep up with the scheduling requirements (Older Workers Benefit Protection Act) or are a member of another protected class, you should consult with a nurse attorney or other attorney in your state who can evaluate your concerns and provide specific advice.


By | 2014-08-04T00:00:00-04:00 August 4th, 2014|Categories: Blogs, Nursing Careers and Jobs|0 Comments

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