|Workplace From Hades...
Oct 26, 2005
I work for a large state agency for the State of Oregon. Three years ago, I was informed by a co-worker that the lead worker, whom I had to call in to when sick, was sharing my supposed confidential phone calls with other co-workers while on smoke breaks. I went to my supervisor, who knew my health status, and had recruited me to work for this agency. At the time, I was told that "smoke breaks were people's own time" and there was nothing she could do. I was also told that "I needed to get a backbone". Due to the ensuing rotten treatment and hostility, after getting the union involved, my doctor put me off work. While off work, my position was eliminated. They made sure I wasn't coming back. Thankfully, a wonderful HR employee kept me on her mind, and nine months later found another position in another building at a much lower rank and pay. I started back to work March 1, 2003, and have worked my way back up. I don't know what people know about my HIV status now... no one asks and I'm sure not telling! Now, that manager is off work permanently battling cancer, and the former lead worker is now the manager. My question is... do I just let it go and chalk it up to a "learning experience"? Am I beyond a time period where I could do something about the rotten treatment? At the time, I could not afford a lawyer, and was more focused on getting better and finding another place to work. Thank you for your answer... you folks do a wonderful job of answering questions. Take care and peace to you.
| Response from Ms. Breuer
The answer you were given about the violation of your confidentiality sets a new low in weaselly responses. Smoke breaks are people's own time? Give me a break (so to speak). If a "lead worker" is sharing your confidential information, that person puts the employer at risk and his/her actions are probably actionable. But that is now water over the dam.
Your confidentiality rights were violated badly. You have considerable courage to go back, work your way up and continue your employment. With the former "lead worker" now in a position to do much more damage, I'd go to that wonderful HR person, explain what happened, and ask what the company is doing to educate that manager and others about employees' confidentiality rights. The penalties for unauthorized disclosure have recently been increased, and that person sounds too expensive to keep around, in my opinion.
This is an education issue. I encourage you to leave behind the question of vengeance, since it is so absorbing and produces very little besides bitterness, and push for more professional behavior toward you and all other employees. If you do, you can create a great legacy there and benefit from your insistence while you're there. Does it get any better than that?
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