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changes at work from HR director after intial medical checkup
Sep 19, 2005

I work for a not-for-profit firm that has less than 50 employees in the state of Texas. The HR person is also the Executive Secretary. Just after completing my 90 day waiting period for insurance I moved off of COBRA and onto the company's group policy and went and got my 1st routine HIV bloodwork. (I am HIV+ but not needing to be on meds.) About a week after my claim was processed, the HR person/Exec. Sec. sent a note to my supervisor regarding a need to check my performance at work.

My supervisor is very much on my side and was offended by the inquiry. In my weekly meeting with her I disclosed my status and reminded her of her requirement to maintain confidentiality. She speculated that the inquiry into my performance was likely due to the high medical claim that came in; since it could affect the group rates offered our company. She fired off a note to the Exec. Sec. and her boss the CEO (my bosses direct supervisor) about her confidence in my performance and the inappropriateness of being called to look into this by his secretary. Still my boss tells me that I need to be paranoid - and we've both noticed that another supervisor (at my bosses level) is 'monitoring' my work and my hours (although I'm salaried). She also speculates that they may be looking for another reason to fire me or otherwise let me go.

The question is: Should I approach the HR person/Exec. Sec. and remind her of her obligation to protect my confidential information? If so, will this provide me any assurances in terms of filing a wrongful termination claim if I decide to later (not that I want to - I really have loved this job)?

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I've read most all of the other posts on this issue with smaller firms but haven't seen a situation where the questionable action is initiated by the HR person.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Your question describes a sitation that is all too frequent. First, ANYONE working in HR is held to a higher standard than other employees because of the confidentiality demanded by the position. If this exec sec has indeed set up another supervisor to "snoop" on you, behind your own supervisor's back, that is reprehensible.

Second, you have handled the situation wisely and well to this point. Keeping it between you and your immediate supervisor and forming an alliance is a good idea. Unfortunately, the actions of the exec sec force you to take another step to protect yourself.

Third, you are working for an organization with fewer than 50 people, which means your protections are more limited than for many others. For this reason, I encourage you to approach the legal beagle at your local AIDS service organization for advice. Or make a phone call to the ACLU and ask your question about how best to proceed so that you can keep this job you enjoy and not be forced out for reasons completely unrelated to performance.

We are not lawyers, and cannot give legal advice. So I encourage you to do one thing above all others: perform so well that they can't find a chink. If I were you, I'd ask for more frequent written performance reviews by your immediate supervisor, with a copy to you, so that your file will begin to fill with good documentation of the quality of your work. And make that phone call. There may be other ways you can respond to this behavior that can increase your protection.

Go well.


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