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Healthcare Employers’ Title VII Obligations in Harassment, Discrimination of Employees by Patients

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires healthcare employers to protect their medical staff and employees from harassment and discrimination and respond to any such behaviors swiftly and effectively, even if the actor is a patient, rather than a coworker or supervisor. A decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit … Continue Reading

Two Federal Courts Strike Down Health and Human Services ‘Conscience Protection Rule’

Two federal courts have struck down the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) “Conscience Protection Rule,” which was slated to go into effect on November 22, 2019. The Rule purported to enforce pre-existing “conscience laws” that protect the rights of certain employees of healthcare institutions that receive federal funds to refuse to participate in … Continue Reading

Religious Accommodation and Patient Safety in Healthcare Industry

During a recent webinar, our Healthcare team provided practical case studies with clear takeaways and best practices for reasonably accommodating employees’ sincerely-held religious beliefs without compromising patient safety. You can watch the webinar recording at your convenience. Additionally, the team compiled a list of frequently asked questions about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act reasonable … Continue Reading

Pay Equity Challenges Continue: EEOC Sues Nursing Home for Paying Female Nurse Less

Pay equity challenges continue to make the news in the healthcare setting, primarily in the context of physician pay equity gaps. This month, the journal Pediatrics published data from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Pediatrician Life and Career Experience Study (PLACE), which included 1,000 physician responses on income and 1,300 responses on household responsibilities. The … Continue Reading

OCR Recognizes Insider Threats to HIPAA PHI, You Should Too

As we have observed here, news reports of security risks, hackings and breaches caused by individuals, terror groups or even countries around the world certainly are important and can be unsettling. But, for many organizations, including healthcare providers and business associates, a significant and perhaps more immediate area of data risk is malicious insiders. On … Continue Reading

Mandatory Nurse-to-Patient Staffing Ratios: Is Your State Next?

Healthcare facilities in California have been required to adhere to mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios since 2004. These ratios vary depending upon the degree of patient care involved. More recently, Massachusetts passed a law requiring mandatory staffing minimums in the state’s ICU’s. Other states are considering jumping on the bandwagon. A California-like bill is currently pending in … Continue Reading

Healthcare Organizations, Is Your Patient Portal Secure?

While healthcare organizations are embracing new technologies such as patient portals, a recent report shows that organizations’ cybersecurity measures for these technologies are behind the times. A patient portal is a secure online website that allows patients to access their Electronic Health Record from any device with an Internet connection. Many patient portals also allow … Continue Reading

New California Law Allows Sharing of Home Care Aides’ Contact Information with Unions on Demand

A controversial amendment to the California Home Care Services Protection Act (Home Care Act) requires the state Department of Social Services (DSS) to provide the names, phone numbers, and addresses of new or renewing registered home care aides (HCAs) to labor unions on request, unless the aides opt out. The new law, which raises concerns over … Continue Reading

New York Expands Telemedicine Regulations

The authorized use of telehealth to deliver mental health services to New Yorkers has been expanded by amendments to the state Office of Mental Health’s (OMH) Telemental Health Services regulations increasing the types of professionals who may provide care and the places where care recipients can be treated. Our colleagues in the Health Law and Transactions … Continue Reading

Hospital Settles Claim of Religious Discrimination Based on Applicant’s Refusal of Flu Vaccine

The EEOC announced that it reached a $74,418 settlement with a hospital in Owosso, Michigan, to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit the agency had filed under Title VII against the hospital in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. See https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEEOC/bulletins/24d7ec9; and https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/2-14-18.cfm. The plaintiff in the case, Yvonne Bair claimed she applied … Continue Reading

Vermont Court Finds Patient Can Sue Hospital and an Employee for Breach of Confidentiality

In a landmark ruling, the Vermont Supreme Court recently held that a patient had standing to sue both the hospital at which she was a patient and the employee who attended to her, for negligent disclosure of her personal health information to a third-party. Neither the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) nor Vermont … Continue Reading

Three Tips to Investigate Harassment Complaints When You Are Not “the Employer”

The healthcare setting involves many potential “joint employer” landmines, as hospitals often have outside vendors providing services (i.e. food service, laundry service) inside their facilities. Employment and labor law is in flux regarding the “joint employer” standard. See (NLRB’s Proposed Rule Adopts Pre-Browning-Ferris Joint-Employer Standard); (Department of Labor Proposes Updated Interpretation of Joint Employer Standard … Continue Reading

New York City Ban on Pre-Employment Drug Testing Won’t Apply to (most) Healthcare Workers

On May 10, 2019, a bill amending New York City’s administrative code related to prospective employee drug-testing officially became law for New York City employers. While the law does not go into effect until May 10, 2020, it is the first of its kind in the nation. The law prohibits employers from requiring applicants to … Continue Reading

House Pushes OSHA to Create a Standard Concerning Workplace Violence in the Healthcare Sector

Members of the House of Representatives recently introduced legislation that would require the Department of Labor to promulgate a standard addressing workplace violence in the healthcare and social service industries. Under the bill, the standard would need to include requirements for employers in the healthcare and social service industries to develop comprehensive plans protecting workers … Continue Reading

Sexual Harassment in Hospitals: Interns, Residents, Students, Attending Physicians: How to Navigate a Troublesome Problem Among a Diverse Workforce

Much has been written lately about the #MeToo movement and its presence in workplaces as diverse as universities, movie and TV studios. Hospitals are no exception. Savvy employers know that hospitals—large facilities that employ people of all educational backgrounds, races, religions, sexual orientations, ages, and more—can be ground zero for sexual harassment at any time. … Continue Reading

HIPAA Penalties Change Under HHS Notice of Enforcement Discretion

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notification of enforcement discretion changing its interpretation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 resulting in a reduction in the amount of the cumulative annual penalty limit for violations of HIPAA. Our colleagues in the Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity … Continue Reading

Considerations for an Aging Physician Policy

Aging is inevitable. As the general population trends older, so do the physicians providing care across the United States. While data differs depending on the source, somewhere between one in three and one in four practicing physicians are over the age of 65, with this percentage rising even higher in many specialties. With this aging … Continue Reading

Small Michigan Medical Practice to Close Following Ransomware Attack

Small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) continue to be targeted by ransomware, phishing and other cyberattacks; the consequences of which could be devastating. Those consequences include putting SMEs out of business, which is unfortunately the case for one small medical practice in Battle Creek, Michigan, as reported by HIPAAJournal. Our colleagues in the Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity … Continue Reading

Just Culture–What Is It and Can It Minimize Patient Harm and Promote a Positive Workplace Culture?

Healthcare employers, along with other high-risk industries, continually look for ways to minimize risk and to promote a positive work culture for employees. One approach is the implementation of a “just culture” framework. In essence, “just culture” is a shared accountability methodology. In a “just culture” framework, both employers and employees are responsible for their … Continue Reading

Large Health Systems’ CEOs Predict Less Mergers, Continued High Demand for Employees in 2019

On February 23, 2019, Modern Healthcare reported key takeaways from its “CEO Power Panel.” Of the 24 CEOs who completed the survey, only three (12.5 percent) responded that mergers and acquisitions “will be their primary growth strategy in 2019,” down from 25.8 percent of respondents in 2018. CEOs questioned whether organizations achieved any actual value … Continue Reading

Healthcare Whistleblowers Collecting Under The FCA Even Where There Are No Fraudulent Billings: What Is An Employer To Do?

The Department of Justice recently reported that the healthcare industry accounted for $2.5 billion of the $2.8 billion dollars it recovered in False Claims Act (FCA) cases in Fiscal Year 2018. Qui tam actions (FCA claims brought by private individuals on behalf of the government) allow whistleblowers to receive up to 30 percent of the … Continue Reading

February Forecast for Healthcare Employers: Expect Flurry of FLSA Wage and Hour Suits

Healthcare employers can expect the rise of class action lawsuits to continue, as 2019 has seen a steady influx of class actions against healthcare employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and various state wage-and-hour counterparts. A hospital system is defending a class action suit filed by nurses in Oregon alleging that they were … Continue Reading

Protected Concerted Activity: Healthcare Employers Should Remain Wary Despite Narrowing Labor Board Standard

In a decision that affects both union and non-union employers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board) has taken what is likely the first step toward reining in the expanded scope of what the Obama-era Board considered “protected, concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In Alstate Maintenance, the NLRB overturned its … Continue Reading

Healthcare Lawyers Meeting Highlights Need for a Coordinated Approach to Preventing Sexual Harassment in Hospitals

Speakers at the 2019 American Health Lawyers Association’s Physicians and Hospitals Law Institute repeatedly emphasized the importance of a coordinated approach to preventing harassment in hospitals. Programs at the conference reviewed the history of the #MeToo movement and its effect on hospitals and the healthcare field generally. One speaker cited Medscape’s Sexual Harassment of Physicians … Continue Reading
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