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Woman Seeks Advice After Learning Boss Told Co-Workers She Was In A 'Psych Ward' When She Took Time Off

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A distraught employee turned to Reddit's Workplace Bullying subreddit to tell a story of her boss disclosing her personal medical information to her coworkers.

We all know that there are good and bad supervisors. Some will support you and have your back in the workplace, while others’ behavior can make you question exactly how they got the job.

A woman shared that she had been admitted to a mental health clinic recently, presumably taking some time off of work to get her mental health in check.

Apparently, she made her “boss” aware of her unfortunate condition, likely in an effort to allow him to find coverage for her job while she was out of work.

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To the woman’s surprise, it turns out that the boss told some of her coworkers that she was in a “psych ward” during her absence.

Now she is upset and uncomfortable with the fact that the boss shared private information in the workplace.

She also tells readers that she is skeptical about reporting the situation as she fears it will backfire on her. The woman says, “I’m afraid to call HR because I know my boss will retaliate.”

“They will cut my hours, give me the ‘silent treatment’, talk crap about me to my coworkers and other things. I know because I’ve seen it before.”

The user asked specifically if her boss had violated any HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which applies to employee health information.

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Commenters were quick to come to the woman’s defense. The first person said, “That is information that should not be shared with others. I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Another poster empathized with the employee, stating, “First off, I’m so sorry this happened to you. That’s disgusting that your boss would think it’s ok to talk to others about something that I’m sure was difficult for you.”

This person went on to advise her to quit the job and report the superior’s behavior in an exit interview. They close by telling her, “Absolutely no job is worth making your depression worse.”

To answer the woman’s first question regarding HIPAA laws, employees should know that the Privacy Rule generally does not extend to Health information on file with their employer.

However, if an employer is requesting health information on a worker from a HIPAA-covered entity, it can’t do so without the employee’s authorization.

However, companies should keep in mind that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) dictates that disability-related medical information, such as mental health diagnoses, can only be disclosed in limited situations.

These situations include setting up work accommodations, for first aid or emergency treatment or for government officials who are investigating compliance with the ADA.

In addition to the fact that this supervisor is in violation of the ADA, he or she is opening the employee up to potential discrimination and bullying in the workplace due to the perceived mental issues.

Quitting a toxic job with a terrible culture is ideal, but despite the poster’s concerns about retaliation, she should report the behavior anyway.

If you find yourself in the same situation, do meet with Human Resources and make a complaint. Be sure to mention that ADA violation and the impact on you. Follow up immediately with an email to HR discussing what was discussed and send yourself a copy for your records.

Documenting encounters in the workplace, including those with HR, is one of the most important ways of fighting back against retaliation and mistreatment. 

Walking away from situations that are traumatic is the best course of action, but before you choose to leave, hold those responsible for your negative experience accountable. You just might make it a better place for future employees.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle, entertainment and news, and self-focused content, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.

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