Is employee termination for accessing EHRs an unfair labor process?

In August 2014, Rocky Mountain Eye Center in Missoula, Mont., fired an employee for accessing the center's EHR to retrieve contact information for employees to coordinate discussions and meetings to set up a union. The dismissal of the employee was found to be an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act, and now the eye center is fighting that ruling.

According to court documents, the eye center operates on Centricity's EHR platform. Employee information, including contact information, is also stored in the EHR. Britta Brown, the terminated employee, allegedly accessed the EHR to find that contact information to start organizing union talks.

Rocky Mountain Eye Center fired Ms. Brown, saying she had violated HIPAA by accessing the employee information.

According to the administrative law judge, the eye center held an "overly-broad confidentiality rule," and the information Ms. Brown accessed did not fall under the realm of HIPAA-protected information.

The judge ordered the Rocky Mountain Eye Center to stop upholding its confidentiality agreement and reinstate Ms. Brown to an equivalent position.

The eye center is now challenging the ruling, saying the EHR is only a patient database, so Ms. Brown accessed records of patients who also happened to be employees and gave the information to a third party. The eye center seeks ruling that Ms. Brown's termination is lawful.

More articles on EHRs:

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