It has happened to us all…You get a bad flu or some other illness that requires that you call in sick. Being extra careful you visit your doctor, receive treatment and obtain a medical excuse note that you promptly give to your payroll secretary when you return.
The days come out of your Cumulative Absence Reserve (CAR) and that’s the end of it. Right?
A disturbing trend has begun to emerge. Principals and other supervisors are verifying the “doctor notes” and in some cases bringing our members up on charges for providing what they believe are false or tampered doctor’s notes.
One case in point. A teacher, from District 75, after 10 years of unblemished and exemplary teaching began to have some “disagreements” with her principal. One day, one of her students struck her causing injury to her hand. While the principal balked at first, the injury in the line of duty forms were completed and the teacher went to her doctor for treatment.
The doctor examined the teacher and determined that three days were needed for recuperation which placed her back at work on a Friday. The teacher asked the doctor for one more day and he consented and adjusted the note accordingly.
When the teacher took the note back to school all seemed o.k. until, about two months later she was summoned into the principals office and questioned about who changed the doctor’s note. She vehemently denied having anything to do with the note and was then sent to the rubber room.
She languished in the rubber room for almost a year when she found out that her doctor had told investigators from special investigations that he had not made any changes to the note. Faced with this information and upon advice from her NYSUT lawyer the teacher agreed to leave her job and pay a $2500 fine. She was subsequently hired in another state.
When I first heard of this case I wondered how this could have happened under the HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 1996 or HIPAA, the federal law that, among other things, protects us from unauthorized disclosure of medical records.
Without a proper release or properly noticed subpoena it is a violation of this federal law for your doctor or health care provider to supply any record or confirm the existence of a medical record to the DOE. This includes visits, diagnosis, or any other medical information.
In the case above the DOE would probably not be in violation of HIPAA but the teacher’s doctor most assuredly would be. When you are treated by a health care provider and you do not wish the DOE to know anything more than the date you should return to school remind your health care provider of her responsibilities under HIPAA. If your principal asks for more information remind him of HIPAA and the laws against disability discrimination.