New TSBP Policy gives staff right to get an employee’s personal medical information

Craig:
In the October 16 meeting, council made a change to the Sick Leave policy that gives staff the right to contact a doctor and get an employee’s medical information.
What do you think of that?
Cuvava
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12 Responses to New TSBP Policy gives staff right to get an employee’s personal medical information

  1. leo Ditschun says:

    This, quite frankly, is cr!!p. A person’s medical information is private and any attempts by others, such as Council members, to obtain a person’s medical record should be denied by the party holding the record. If Council is concerned as to whether a staff member is absent for medical reasons, they could request a doctor’s signed statement but only in respect of determining whether such sick leave should be paid or unpaid leave.

  2. cgammie says:

    Cuvava:

    I think it stinks.

    My comments are based on a discussion I had with a friend on this issue. He has the designation Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) and is a member of the Human Resources Professional Association (HRPA).

    The new TSBP sick leave policy says:

    “The Town reserves the right to contact the [employee’s] physician to obtain written information if it is not clear what the absence and/or work limitations entail.”
    and,
    “The Town reserves the right to contact the [employee’s]physician to obtain any information required so that it is clear what duties the employee is capable of performing and any accommodations required.”

    It’s probably not illegal to put in a policy “we reserve the right…”. And it is probably not illegal for staff to contact a physician and ask for any kind of written or oral information about an employee. But even though these actions may not be illegal, under no conditions are they acceptable.

    But it is under no circumstances acceptable for staff to contact a medical professional and ask for an employee’s personal information.

    Medical professionals are very aware that it is against the law for them to provide information directly to an employer. They just will not give out personal information.

    Because medical people can’t give out an employee’s personal information, and won’t give out an employee’s personal information, there doesn’t appear to be any purpose in the “reserves the right to get information from a medical professional” clause that appears twice in the TSBP policy.

    So why is the clause even in the policy?

    There is a clue in the Functional Abilities Form that is part of the policy. The form, when completed, will clearly contain personal information and so must be kept very confidential. Yet the instructions for the medical professional who will be completing the form include the following:

    “Mail to:
    Town of South Bruce Peninsula
    PO Box 310, 315 George St
    Wiarton Ontario
    NOH 2TO

    Fax to:
    519-534-4862”

    That’s hardly confidential. In fact with that instruction the whole office could know an employee’s personal information. Had any STD’s? Mental illness? How old are you? Had a heart attack? Are you dependable?

    An employee has a right to privacy.

    Given the source (senior staff) of this outrageous policy, it sure looks to me like it’s just another threat to be used on any employee that doesn’t support the corruption at town hall.

    The threat is “toe the line and keep your mouth shut and don’t challenge the shenanigans and the corruption around here because if you don’t behave and if you are ever off work sick we will get all your personal medical information and we will use it against you to make you behave.”

    Anywhere else this theory would be labeled “ridiculously far-fetched”.

    But we’re not anywhere else. We’re in the Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

    Anyone else have a theory? Does anyone have an explanation for the ridiculous policy?

    Craig

  3. cuvava says:

    Today….. Bayshore Broadcasting News Centar. RE: TSBP Sick Leave Policy
    ” Mayor John Close who says he is confident staff have researched the issue thoroughly before presenting it to council ”  It would be interesting to know, who requested that this be brought before the council and why ??

    VUF VUF VUF VUF VUF VUF

    • cgammie says:

      Cuvava:

      http://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/news_item.php?NewsID=51787

      In the October 16 council meeting Councillor Jackson said that as far as she knew, council had not requested the policy change, and that the policy change idea had come from staff. Mayor Close said that council had requested that staff modify the policy. Mayor Close did not cite the minutes documenting that council had requested the change.

      I think I will go with the Jackson version until I see written evidence to the contrary.

      Craig

      • cuvava says:

        I just do not understand why staff would bring this before council without orders from higher-up, because this policy is not in their favour. Because it could be their own private medical records and personal information that might get sent to the general mailbox at TSBP for all to see.

        And staff are forbidden to see, speak to or visit a sick colleague.

        This remain me of communist countries 65 years ago, when two people were forbidden to be seen talking. Even those countries do not practice that any more.

        Vuf Vuf Vuf Vuf

  4. Pingback: Re: November 6, 2012 Council Agenda (2-42) | Craig Gammie's Commentary

  5. Pingback: Re: November 6, 2012 Council Agenda (Commentary 2-42) « Bruce on the Bruce

  6. beachweezy says:

    As a retired HR person, I can only say that some of the comments are typical of non-HR people trying to do HR work. On the surface, yes I agree that medical information is confidential and that an employer cannot discriminate based on medical reasons. There are many reasons for absenteism. Abuse of days off, on-duty injury, off-duty injury, illness (temporary and permanent), WCB involvement, retraining opportunities, etc, etc .

    An employer has an obligation to <provide reasonable accommodations without undue hardship< in some of those cases. In order to provide accommodations, the employer must be aware of the medical conditions as well as the restrictions (whether temporary or permanent), and this is done with the written consent of the patient.

    As the past Secretary of the Rehabilitation Committee for a very large corporations, I have had to work around some of those restrictions and have worked with the committee (comprised of union reps and heads of departments) to provide those accommodations, and this with the knowledge and understanding of the medical conditions and the restrictions.

    If I am reading this correctly, this policy has not been made public, so no one (outside of staff) has <read< the entire policy. Before I make general <crucifying< comments, I usually like to wait until I have all the facts rather than provoking another <storm in a teapot<.

    • cgammie says:

      Beachweezy:

      The draft sick leave and absence policy is public information, and has been since about October 12th.

      It appears in the October 16 agenda package at:

      https://southbrucepeninsula.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=51286

      The draft starts on page 99, and there is a “markup” version starting on page 107.

      You have claimed by implication that those who criticized the draft policy (“crucifying comments”) did so without reading it. Your implied claim is false. I think I can speak for all who have commented on this blog in saying that we have made our comments only after having carefully read and analyzed the draft policy.

      No disrespect for your professional designation intended, but it only makes sense to put more faith in the opinion of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) who is a member of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) and who has actually read the draft policy, than in the opinion of a professional who has not. I am even inclined to put more faith in a non-professional who has read and analyzed the draft policy than a human resources professional who has not even read the draft policy.

      We look forward to your revised comments after you have read the draft policy.

      Craig

  7. beachweezy says:

    From Craig’s blog
    Before I make general <crucifying< comments, I usually like to wait until I have all the facts rather than provoking another <storm in a teapot<.
    I, being the operative word here. I had not read the policy and I reserved my comments to be more generic and broad and chose not to get on yours and Cuvava’s bandwagon. Ironically, you chose to latch on to this one comment. No other comment about what else I wrote in my post.
    I have given a cursary reading of the policy. I may have worded it differently, may not have used the same terminology or I would have elaborated on certain points, however, the generality of my comments is pretty well the intent of what the policy states.
    Unlike you, I will not pick on every word. I don’t have the inclination nor the time.. I have a life.
    And staff are forbidden to see, speak to or visit a sick colleague.
    This remain (reminds as corrected by the poster) me of communist countries 65 years ago, when two people were forbidden to be seen talking. Even those countries do not practice that any more.
    Vuf Vuf Vuf Vuf
    I personally find this comment offensive and inflammatory. Ironically, you chose not to comment on it and instead chose to endorse the continuation of what feels like a <witch hunt<.
    During a 35-year career in HR, I have on numerous occasions, intervened on behalf of employees who were home recuperating from surgery/illness/accident. Why? Because they were called upon regularly by employees/managers to make decisions/answer questions/suggestions to work problems.
    In some cases, I have had to issue internal memos asking staff to refrain from visiting or communicating with the afflicted employee who felt that it caused them more anguish to be in constant contact with various personnel, and this in some cases, was at the suggestion of the medical practioner .
    From Bruceonbruce blog:
    In the October 16 meeting, Clerk Cathrae indicated that she had checked policies of several others and determined that the proposed TSBP policy wording was very similar.
    According to my friend the HR professional, this is false.
    And your friend the HR professional knows that how?
    According to the HR professional, only a shady outfit with shady intentions would write a policy like the one proposed by Ms. Cathrae.
    I don’t care how many letters your HR professional has after his/her name, I personally find this statement to be utterly unprofessional. Again, I don’t know if it is a true reflection of that person’s statement, or your interpretation of it.
    YOUR BLOG
    But it is under no circumstances acceptable for staff to contact a medical professional and ask for an employee’s personal information.
    I have the utmost respect for the medical profession and know that they are bound by doctor/patient confidentiality. I doubt that any medical practioners would accept any such request from any staff or even release medical information (without written consent from their patient) that would be irrelevant to the purpose of the request (e.g. degree of accommodations, length of absence etc.)

    Under REPORTING ABSENCES, this caught my attention:
    Item 5: Unless express permission is received from the individual in a written format, medical or personal information will not be relayed to Council or staff through email or any open forum.
    As for the rest of the staff knowing about the employee’s medical information, I prefer to interpret it as the town’s attempt to respect the wish and privacy of the afflicted employee. Unless the employee provides that written consent to the assigned employee in charge of such personnel files. (As stated in item 5. Reporting Absences), the information should remains confidential. If the employee in charge of personnel files breaches confidentiality, then it is up to his/her supervisor to investigate and to assign severe disciplinary action. Need I also mention that if such matter had to be brought up to Council’s attention, it would be <in camera<, yet another reason for you to rant.
    I have no intention of getting into a pi……g contest with you. Please accept and extend the courtesy of <freedom of speech< to all, not just to the ones who agree with you. Even though I don’t agree with all that you say or how you go about it, I am still entitled to my opinion.
    If you didn’t get elected or failed to get reelected and you don’t work for the Town, get over it.

    • cgammie says:

      Beachweezy:

      You wrote:

      “Ironically, you chose to latch on to this one comment (about Cuvava’s and my “crucifying comments”)”

      Of course I did. The whole point of your post seemed to be that people you assumed are non-HR professionals (Cavava, Leo, and me) should not be stirring up a “storm (tempest?) in a teapot” and “crucifying” a draft policy that you assumed we had not even read.

      My response merely pointed out that your assumption was false. We did read the draft policy.

      I deliberately did not comment on your assessment of the situation because you made clear that you had not read the policy, and I am not inclined to respond to comments about what you speculate the policy might have said.

      And there is no “irony” in my choice to “latch on to this one comment .” My choice, rather than “ironic”, was perfectly predictable.

      You wrote:

      “Unlike you, I will not pick on every word. I don’t have the inclination nor the time. I have a life.”

      This is an ad hominem argument (defined in Wikipedia as “an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent’s argument”).

      I will not respond further to it.

      You wrote:

      “I personally find [Cuvava’s “communist countries 65 years ago”] comment offensive and inflammatory. Ironically, you chose not to comment on it and instead chose to endorse the continuation of what feels like a ‘witch hunt’.”

      I agree with Cuvava. But I chose not to say so as it would be stating the obvious. The choice of whether to comment on this particular statement was mine, and I chose.

      Nothing can be implied from my so choosing. I feel that people’s comments are an important part of the policy making process. I do not agree that anyone’s comments on the issue are a “witch hunt”. So I cannot possibly have chosen to, as you suggest “ continue a “witch hunt””.

      You quoted me:

      “According to my friend the HR professional, [that Cathrae checked policies of others and found them similar] is false.

      And you wrote:

      “And your friend the HR professional knows that how?”

      I misrepresented the HR professional. What my friend said is that the wording was, in his experience, not at all as common or as typical as Ms. Cathrae had implied. I accept as true that Ms. Cathrae checked policies of others and found them similar.

      You wrote:

      “I don’t care how many letters your HR professional has after his/her name, I personally find the statement “According to the HR professional, only a shady outfit with shady intentions would write a policy like the one proposed by Ms. Cathrae.” to be utterly unprofessional. Again, I don’t know if it is a true reflection of that person’s statement, or your interpretation of it.”

      My friend said that. The shady outfit with shady intentions comments were over the draft policy statement:

      “The Town reserves the right to contact the physician to obtain written information or to request that the employee provides further written information from the physician …”.

      The point is that the “contact the physician” statement is completely unnecessary and serves no proper or legitimate purpose. The policy would be just as effective, and far more acceptable, if it just said:

      “The Town reserves the right to request (or require) that the employee provides further written information from the physician …”.

      I agree with my friend that if the statement serves no proper or legitimate purpose then it is there because of incompetence or it is there for an intended ill purpose.

      Which do you think?

      You wrote:

      “I doubt that any medical practioners (sic) would accept any such request from any staff or even release medical information (without written consent from their patient) that would be irrelevant to the purpose of the request (e.g. degree of accommodations, length of absence etc.)”

      So does this mean that you think medical practitioners would release medical information that would be relevant to the purpose of the request without written consent from their patient?

      I checked with a doctor on this one. No personal information goes out without consent.
      It doesn’t matter who thinks it is relevant to the purpose of the request.

      I stand by my statement “But it is under no circumstances acceptable for staff to contact a medical professional and ask for an employee’s personal information.”

      You wrote:

      “Need I also mention that if such matter [confidentiality of records] had to be brought up to Council’s attention, it would be <in camera<, yet another reason for you to rant.”

      This is another ad hominem argument and also a straw man argument. I have never ranted about in-camera meetings per se. Like many others, including the Ontario Ombudsman, I have concerns about issues being discussed in closed in contravention of the rules.

      http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2012/11/02/locals-noted-in-ombudsmans-report

      And the draft policy is the issue here, not my extremely rare “rants”.

      You wrote:

      “I have no intention of getting into a pi……g contest with you. Please accept and extend the courtesy of <freedom of speech< to all, not just to the ones who agree with you. Even though I don’t agree with all that you say or how you go about it, I am still entitled to my opinion.”

      Beachweezy I don’t know where this comes from.

      I started http://craiggammieblog.com as another place where people could have their say.

      I have never tried to stop anyone from commenting, and indeed I invite you to comment often. Because just like the rest of us, you are entitled to your opinion. But please don’t characterize my disagreement as curtailment of free speech.

      You wrote:

      “If you didn’t get elected or failed to get reelected and you don’t work for the Town, get over it.”

      I take this to mean “only staff and elected representatives are allowed to participate in the decision making process.”

      Which is completely contrary to our democracy. And I believe that it is also a suggestion that I (and Cuvava and Leo and many others) should not be allowed to speak except at election time.

      Did I understand you correctly?

      Craig

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