COVID-19 Cases in the workplace & HIPPA rules

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CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Employers are often bound by HIPAA rules and regulations when it comes to being transparent about COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

News 12’s Bekah Birdsall talks about the difficult decision employers have to face.

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“Some employers have not been real forthcoming with other employees when they do have positive tests, but to me that’s a case by case basis. Like I said, they may have said ‘I don’t want anybody to know’. Well, again, put yourself in that employer’s position. Well, I need to tell everybody, but then this person has HIPAA rights, you know, they do have a right to privacy.”

While most people would assume if someone in their workplace tests positive for COVID-19, their employer would tell them.

But due to HIPAA rules, some employers are not legally allowed to disclose that information if that person does not sign a HIPAA waiver.

“You got a choice to make, if you do divulge it, they may sue you for a HIPAA violation, where that would go, I don’t know. I think under the current climate I don’t think too many courts would be very sympathetic to a plaintiff if they refused to allow the employer to divulge that information.”

He says most employers he represents would risk a HIPAA violation rather than not tell.

However, it’s up to employees to take personal responsibility and report any symptoms, pending tests, and results to the employer.

“Everyone needs to be on the same page. Employers need to say well here’s the precautions we’re trying to take, but y’all have to take personal responsibility that if you are informed that you’re positive that you need to let us know. If you’re close with any of your coworkers, you may want to call them personally and tell them.”

The employer is mandated to report your name and positive test to the local health department if the test wasn’t through the health department.

But, don’t expect your employer to do contact tracing.

Reporting in Chattanooga, I’m Bekah Birdsall, News 12 Now.