Phoenix Children’s Hospital, through its attorneys, is “doubling down” on a mistake it allegedly made when a member of administrative staff exposed employees who received exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The exposed employees filed a class action lawsuit against Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) for unlawfully disclosing the information. The breach of privacy initially occurred when a hospital administrator sent an email to employees who were approved for either a medical or religious exemption from the company’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
“PCH is defending their breach of duty to their employees, not by acknowledging their mistake, but by doubling down,” explained attorney for the employees, Alex Kolodin of the Davillier Law Group. “Yesterday, in court filings, they submitted a brief that is essentially the unauthorized sequel to ‘If I did it.’ Their claim, essentially, is that the PCH employees whose private medical information they disclosed had it coming because employee vaccination status is ‘of legitimate interest to its workforce.’ They also warned the public that, if the Biden administration mandates are upheld, they may go further still and ‘make visible distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. This behavior, by a major hospital, is disappointing to say the least.”
According to the lawsuit, on October 15, 2021, PCH employee Holly Tomassini sent an email to 368 people on behalf of PCH’s VP of Employee & Physician Relations, Steve Schuster, disclosing which PCH employees had received a medical or religious exemption to the vaccine mandate.
That information was then allegedly shared on social media. Despite the fact that it was shared on social media, a PCH attorney with the Snell and Wilmer Law Firm claimed:
“A claim for public disclosure of private facts requires disclosure to the larger public, not simply an internal list of employees. It also requires the disclosure to be highly offensive to a reasonable person. Plaintiffs cannot show an alleged disclosure of their vaccination status to other unvaccinated co-workers meets those standards. Plaintiffs further cannot show the email discloses private information about either of them or that sharing their vaccination status with other employees working at a pediatric hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic is not of legitimate public concern.”
However, the law requires employers who ask their employees for sensitive and private health information to safeguard that information.
At issue is whether the breach was an invasion of privacy and whether PCH knew or should have known the information was private, and whether such disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Some say that given the fact that the vaccines and vaccine status has become a political issue, few could argue that exposing a person’s status could be viewed as a political move rather than a matter of public concern.
“If Phoenix Children’s Hospital will politicize their employees and carelessly distribute their private medical information, claiming it is of public interest, what will they do with sensitive information regarding their patients? Have we stopped caring about an individual’s right to privacy in the name of COVID-19? Perhaps parents should think twice before trusting their child’s medical treatment with an establishment that refuses to be accountable for their mistakes,” said Senator Kelly Townsend.
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