Privacy Matters

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about work comp and drug screening:

I am RN who became ill at work one day and since I work in ER the testing they did that day was giving to HR reported as work comp which I did not agree with. I turned it in to my own insurance. It was an episode of chest pain, rapid heartbeat–clearly not a work comp case.

They ran a drug screen and it tested positive for amphetemines and HR put me on a leave until I proved to them it was positive from a prescribed medicine. I was cleared and allowed to return to work; however, I requested HR director an unpaid medical leave of absence due to need to seek treatment for eating disorder. It was granted; however, HR and the ER manager allowed the info that I had a positive drug test and the fact I was seeking treatment for eating disorder be disclosed to my co-workers.

My question is: What is the line where my privacy rights are violated? I also don’t feel I can return to the job because of humiliation and obvious lack of confidence in me from other staff given the importance and risk of my job. Do I have any recourse?

Signed, Recourse?

Dear Recourse?

Sorry, I have not answered sooner. Why? I forwarded you question to a guest respondent with expertise related to your situation. If and when a reply, comes I will forward it to you. If not, my advice is to hold your head high, don’t talk about it more than is necessary with co-workers, do speak with HR that you think your privacy has not been maintained, and do return to work.

I would also put in writing to HR an account with dates of what transpired and how you have learned and from whom that personal medical information has been disclosed. Keep a copy of this letter for your self. If fired, you might need this should you seek the aid of an attorney. However, I do not recommend an attorney. That can be messy and cause you to hope for relief of the anxiety you feel rather than to focus on getting back on your feet.

Going legal can be costly and exacerbate your ability to cope. What is past should now be past. The humiliation and anger you feel are understandable, but obsessing about that will distract you from what immediately lies ahead and for your longtime future. You are a professionally trained nurse. You are wanted. Nurses are in short supply and your expertise makes you a valued employee where you now work and employable many places. Moreover, your training should help you understand the medical problems you have had and may still be working though.

The important thing for you to do now is to confront your fears and set about providing medical skills and TLC that you possess. So begin one day at a time. I recommend that you read some of the advice of Tina Lewis Rowe, my associate Workplace Doctor. Her advice is posted on our site and can not be surpassed. See question hat can be messy and cause you to hope for relief of the anxiety you feel rather than to focus on getting back on your feet. Going legal can be costly and exacerbate your ability to cope. What is past should now be past. The humiliation and anger you feel are understandable, but obsessing about that will distract you from what immediately lies ahead and for your longtime future.You are a Sorry, I have not answered sooner. Why? I forwarded you question to a guest respondent with expertise related to your situation. If and when a reply, comes I will forward it to you. If not, my advice is to hold your head high, don’t talk about it more than is necessary with co-workers, do speak with HR that you think your privacy has not been maintained, and do return to work. I would also put in writing to HR an account with dates of what transpired and how you have learned and from whom that personal medical information has been disclosed. Keep a copy of this letter for your self. If fired, you might need this should you seek the aid of an attorney. However, I do not recommend an attorney. Professionally trained nurse. You are wanted. Nurses are in short supply and your expertise makes you a valued employee where you now work and employable many places. Moreover, your training should help you understand the medical problems you have had and may still be working though. The important thing for you to do now is to confront your fears and set about providing medical skills and TLC that you possess. So begin one day at a time. I recommend that you read some of the advice of Tina Lewis Rowe, my associate Workplace Doctor. Her advice is posted on our site and can not be surpassed. For example see the recently posted question she answered on humiliation.Tina may add to these thoughts. My final bit of advice is to replace your ego concerns by thinking about all the good you can do. Think WEGO.

William Gorden