Docherty v. Unemployment Compen. Bd. of Review, 050906 PACCA, 1952 C.D. 2005

Docket Nº:1952 C.D. 2005
Party Name:Christopher Docherty, Petitioner v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Respondent
Case Date:May 09, 2006
Court:Court of Appeals of Pennsylvania

Christopher Docherty, Petitioner


Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, Respondent

No. 1952 C.D. 2005

Court of Appeals of Pennsylvania

May 9, 2006

       Argued April 4, 2006




       Christopher Docherty (Claimant) petitions for review of the August 22, 2005, order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review (UCBR), which reversed a referee’s decision granting unemployment compensation benefits (UC benefits) to Claimant. We reverse.

       Claimant worked full time as a phlebotomist for Pottsville Hospital (Employer). On March 2, 2005, Claimant entered the room of a five-year-old female patient (Patient). The room had two beds approximately eight feet apart; Patient was in one bed and another young patient occupied the other bed. Patient’s parents were visiting her, and the mother of the second patient also was visiting her child. Upon entering the room, Claimant introduced himself to Patient and her parents, and he stated that he was there to withdraw blood from Patient. At that point, Patient’s parents, particularly her father, asked Claimant why blood was being taken. Claimant responded that the blood would be used for a rapid HIV and hepatitis test. After Claimant left the room, Patient’s mother vocalized her disapproval of Claimant’s stating the reason for the blood test in the presence of others. (UCBR’s Findings of Fact, Nos. 1-3, 7-12.)

       Employer subsequently discharged Claimant for violating Employer’s confidentiality policy (Policy), which provides in pertinent part: “[e]mployees must safeguard lists, reports, documents, and discussions, etc. containing patient information from unauthorized viewing and/or listening.” (O.R. at exh. C, Attachment 2.) According to Employer, Claimant violated the Policy by discussing Patient’s health information in front of individuals (Patient’s roommate and the roommate’s mother), who had no need or right to know the substance of Patient’s protected health information. (UCBR’s Findings of Fact, Nos. 4-6.)

       Following his discharge, Claimant applied for UC benefits from the local job center, which denied Claimant’s application.1 Claimant appealed, and a referee held a hearing at which both Claimant and representatives of Employer testified.

       Claimant testified that, on March 2, 2005, he received orders from Employer to withdraw blood from Patient in her shared room. Claimant stated that Employer did not segregate patients into single rooms or provide soundproof rooms in order to discuss confidential matters. (N.T. at 3, 7.) According to Claimant, he arrived in Patient’s room to withdraw the blood, and Patient’s parents asked him what tests were going to be performed on Patient. Claimant stated that he answered their questions believing that, because the parents asked for the information, there was nothing wrong with disclosing this information to them. (N.T. at 6.) Claimant acknowledged that Employer offered seminars regarding the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Pub. L. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 18, 26, 29 and 42 U.S.C.), and that HIPAA is very strict about disclosing confidential information to unauthorized individuals. (N.T. at 12-13.) However, Claimant testified that, as he understood HIPAA, it allowed health care providers to have confidential, treatment-related conversations at a treatment facility, even if those conversations might incidentally be overheard by others. (N.T. at 6-7.) On cross-examination, Claimant acknowledged that he was aware of Employer’s Policy and that he had signed Employer’s form indicating that he understood the Policy. (N.T. at 12-13.)

       In opposition to Claimant’s appeal, Employer offered the testimony of, inter alia, Ann Maccarone, Claimant’s supervisor.2 Maccarone explained the Policy, which had been in effect since 1993. In addition, Maccarone testified that Employer reviewed the Policy annually with its employees, and she stated that employees were informed that...

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