In some states, it is possible to sue for a HIPAA violation on the grounds of breach of contract or negligence of a healthcare provider or insurance company. The burden of proof will be on the plaintiff as they will need to prove that harm or damage was caused as a result of the wrongdoing or negligence of the healthcare provider or insurance company. 

Why We Need HIPAA Laws

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects the rights of patients. It was first introduced in 1996 to resolve the issue of insurance coverage for temporarily unemployed individuals. The HIPAA Laws have evolved since then to include several rules and regulations that protect the rights of patients. 

The HIPAA legislation also protects the medical data of each patient. A patient's personal and medical history is restricted to their authorized healthcare provider and the insurance company.  

All organizations that are covered under HIPAA law must comply with HIPAA rules. This includes procedures that must be followed to prevent the breach of privacy and security of the patients. 

If a healthcare organization fails to protect its patients’ medical records, it can face serious penalties. With HIPAA laws, patients can authorize who their information is shared with. They also have the right to obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections to their medical records. 

Examples of HIPAA Violations 

The most common violation of HIPAA law is divulging patient information to an unauthorized party without the patient's consent. Employees cannot share patient information with their family, friends, or third parties. 

Another common HIPAA violation is stolen items due to negligence. Suppose a computer that contains sensitive medical information of the patient is lost or stolen due to the negligence of the organization. In that case, it can result in hefty HIPAA penalties and fines for the organization. 

Can you sue for HIPAA violations? 

There are several types of HIPAA violations, so you must determine if your case qualifies as a violation. Seeking guidance from a HIPAA violation lawyer can help you get on track to get compensation for any potential HIPAA violation. To initiate the proceedings, you will need to file a complaint at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

You have 180 days from when the violation is discovered to file a complaint. If required, you can file for an extension. You will have to wait for a response from the OCR to determine if a violation was made. Keep in mind that the complaint can only be filed against the organizations that are covered under HIPAA regulations. 

There are a few ways the complaint can be resolved before any legal action is required. For example, the organization can accept the mistake and take action against the healthcare worker. In case of a criminal violation, the case can be taken to the Department of Justice. 

How to Take Legal Action over a HIPAA Violation?

After filing a complaint at the OCR website or writing a form to the department, you should keep a copy of the complaint for your attorney. It is important to note that you cannot sue an individual directly for HIPAA violations. HIPAA does not include allowing for "private right of action," which means a patient cannot directly sue for a HIPAA violation. 

A HIPAA-covered entity can only be sued if the violation of HIPAA Law involves the negligence of state or federal laws. However, in case of a criminal or harmful violation of your healthcare record, you can sue for compensation. 

There may be other victims of HIPAA violation at the hands of the same healthcare provider or insurance company. This means a class action lawsuit involving multiple victims may be a stronger case to pursue against the healthcare provider or insurance company. However, you should know that if there was no harm incurred as a result of the HIPAA violations, there is unlikely to be any financial compensation for you as a victim. Your attorney can guide you on whether your case qualifies for any other laws that protect your rights as a patient. 

When to Hire an Attorney

If you believe you are a victim of a HIPAA violation, you can hire an attorney to sue. A HIPAA violation attorney is well-versed in different aspects of HIPAA law. This includes exclusions to the HIPAA law. They can file a state court lawsuit on your behalf and handle communications with the Department of Justice and OCR on your behalf.  

The attorney can also guide you on the steps to take to maximize your chances of winning the lawsuit. This includes guidance on whether your case has the foundation to be successful in a lawsuit or if an alternate course of legal action will be more suitable.

Throughout the pandemic, delivery food orders have skyrocketed in popularity as many individuals can enjoy their meals in the safety of their homes. During these times, food delivery companies have greatly profited, some even taking advantage of the large surge of customers. Grubhub, in particular, has made a lot of its revenue from secretly inflating prices and adding many unnecessary fees to customer orders. Because of the wrongful activity the Grubhub company has been perpetuating, Washington DC decided to sue Grubhub. For example, Grubhub offered delivery for over 1,000 restaurants without the consent of the restaurant owners. Here are a large number of reasons Grubhub was sued and also major points that were included in the lawsuit: 

Grubhub Hidden Fees

Many of the fees included in Grubhub’s orders were misrepresented and higher than necessary. The prices were not discussed between Grubhub or any of the restaurant owners, allowing the delivery company to grossly profit from their corrupt practices. The unauthorized fee structures allowed Grubhub to take advantage of local restaurants even while these small businesses struggled during the pandemic. Grubhub didn’t disclose these terms to the restaurant and didn’t give them the option to decline participation in this promotion. The terms didn’t state that restaurants weren’t financially obligated for the discounts, making this incredibly unfair for restaurants. 

Fake Discounts

Grubhub passed on the cost of discounts to the restaurants during a promotion that was supposed to support restaurants. This campaign was called Supper for Support to help local eateries during the pandemic. Instead of the restaurants benefiting, Grubhub didn’t pay the full difference and was able to profit more than the restaurants themselves. This was done by keeping all of the delivery and marketing charges while charging consumers a reduced price. 

Bait-And-Switch Advertising Tactics

Grubhub further harmed restaurants’ ability to profit by advertising free services that weren’t exactly free. For example, it advertised free online ordering but didn’t say that it applied only to pick-up orders. Customers who wanted a delivery had to pay a fee. They also promoted unlimited free delivery for Grubhub+ subscribers but didn’t mention that there is a service fee for all deliveries. The service fee was hidden inside the tax charges at the checkout. 

Overpriced Menu Items 

In addition to unclear and false advertising, Grubhub also charged far higher prices for menu items. These terms also weren’t discussed with restaurant owners and have added to 30% or more on the menu item’s original price. This may supposedly include delivery costs, driver tips, sales tax, and other expenses unknown to customers. They have been secretly profiting off of thousands of restaurants whose menus were included without their consent, in addition to altering the price of the food available. 

Unsanctioned Microsites Mimicking Official Sites

Grubhub has also been performing predatory practices by creating fake websites so that they can increase their commission fees. The company was able to charge anywhere between 3% to 15% based on whether the restaurant had its own delivery drivers. While customers believed they were ordering directly from the restaurants and avoiding paying Grubhub fees, they were ordering from a site owned by Grubhub that mimicked the original restaurant. The landing pages for these official businesses were designed similarly that it was hard for customers to know they weren’t ordering from the restaurant. The fact that Grubhub is a parent company for multiple food services made it more difficult for customers to detect. 

Custom Phone Numbers That Were Not Toll-Free

Other unlawful practices included the listing of deceptive routing phone numbers. This increased Grubhub’s commission because the phone numbers often charged the caller a fee. To make matters worse, even if the customer didn’t order anything, they were still charged a fee for calling Grubhub’s number. 

How Did Grubhub React To The Lawsuit

Instead of admitting to these harmful activities, Grubhub was disappointed that Washington DC wanted to move forward with the lawsuit. Grubhub mentioned that they would defend their business and continue to serve restaurants. This is even though many of the restaurants didn’t authorize being catered to by Grubhub’s services. The lawsuit is still pending, and the total amount being demanded in the lawsuit is currently not released to the public, but many restaurants are awaiting the decision. After many customers have been misled and the deceptive practices continue, the number of damages might be vast. 

While businesses have finally decided to open their doors to the employees again, the looming threat of coronavirus is still there. This brings us to the critical challenge that employers are now facing, the danger of being sued by employees if they contract the virus in the workplace. Even with all the safety measures in place, the risk of covid spread can never be eliminated. With this in mind, many employers have sought to have their employees sign a COVID-19 liability waiver before resuming work. 

As an employee, it's only natural for you to feel alarmed, being asked to sign a document that would put no obligation on the employer to keep you safe from infection hazards within the work premises. Read on to know everything about the COVID-19 liability waiver and whether an employer can enforce it in a workplace. 

What Is The Covid-19 Liability Waiver?

The COVID-19 liability waiver is an agreement per which the signee forfeits any right to sue their employer if they contract coronavirus in the workplace. Usually, liability waivers are signed between health clubs and members to ensure they don't get roped into a lawsuit for any injuries that any member suffers on the property. The same principles apply here. Once an employee signs a COVID-19 liability waiver, they would lose the right to sue their employer if they get infected with the virus in the workplace. 

Workplace Safety Requirements And Regulations 

In the wake of COVID and the subsequent reopening of offices, the state and federal governments issued certain guidelines for employers to follow to keep the premises safe and disinfected for the employees' return. This is in addition to the standard safety protocols that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Act has laid forth. Some states have enforced other laws to protect employees from potential occupational hazards and diseases. However, with the COVID-19 waivers, the employers could escape responsibility if their employees get infected due to unsafe working conditioning. 

But since workers' compensation claims cannot be waivered, and with some states considering including COVID-19 as an occupational disease against which damages could be recovered, employees could find some relief there. California is one such state that has made this disease compensable for now, provided that the employees meet certain conditions before filing for the claim. Wisconsin could also find itself on the same list. 

Enforceability Of COVID-19 Waiver In Workplace 

The enforceability of COVID-19 waivers differs from state to state. Certain states are reluctant to the idea of enforcing covid liability waivers in the workplace because of the leverage that employers would get over their workers from this order. With states like Virginia and Louisiana unwilling to enforce even personal injury liability waivers, save for a few exceptional cases, it's unlikely that COVID-19, given that it is highly infectious and contagious, would be an exception to this in these states. Other states would probably follow in the same footsteps. 

The only difficulty is, even if you weren't asked to sign the waiver, there is no guarantee that you would be able to recover damages for your illness. One of the prime reasons for this is that it would be difficult to prove that you got infected in the workplace, what with the massive spread of the virus, both in professional, personal, and social spaces. 

So the first challenge you would face is to prove that it was in your office that you caught the infection. Next, you would have to prove that the reason you got infected was due to the oversight of your employer when it came to putting safety measures against the spread of the virus in place. Even if the employer puts in all the effort through all the guidelines and directives of the government in terms of workplace standard operating procedures, the employer won't be able to guarantee the safety of every single employee, considering just how contagious the disease is. If you choose to file a lawsuit against the employer, consider it an uphill battle.

Why Making Employees Sign A COVID-19 Waiver A Bad Idea?

Employers may try to save their skin by making their employees sign the COVID-19 waiver, but it could be counterproductive for several reasons. For one, the employee might lose their faith in the employee, seeing how their employer is more concerned about their economic interests than the health of their workers. By extension, this would make certain employees reluctant to come back to work and rejoin, fearing that the employer could become lax about the COVID-19 safety protocol. Not only would the employer lose face in front of the employees, but it would also reflect poorly on the company and its organizational values. 

Some companies are only enforcing waivers for those employees who are choosing to work from the office, even though they are not asked to join the office just yet by the employer. This way, the employee resumes in-office work knowing the risks involved and their employer's unwillingness. 

In the wake of the COVID-19, government authorities put several safety measures in place to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check. Workplaces were instructed with a new standard operating procedure to control the spread of the virus and to get back to some semblance of normalcy. 

Through this, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) gives employers the go-ahead to check the employees' temperatures as and when they see fit. Several offices quickly adopted the revised SOP and implemented the same to contain the virus as best they could. So, what would happen if your employer indeed found your temperature high, possibly indicating a glaring symptom of the virus? Read on to know this and more. 

Can My Employer Take My Temperature And Send Me Home If I Have Symptoms Of COVID?

One of the requirements of workplace SOP post-COVID had been the regular check of temperatures of employees and other office staffers alike to separate the ones with symptoms of COVID from the ones with none. This was put in place to ensure that people with symptoms don't transmit the virus to others, essentially turning the office into a red zone. Therefore, chances are your employer would check your temperature every day to be on the safe side. 

What happens if your temperature is dangerously high, which is a telling symptom of COVID? Your employer would indeed send you back home. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has explicitly recommended that people with COVID symptoms need to be sent home, so they don't end up infecting others in the workplace, your employer would raise the alarm at a high temperature and ask you to take some time off work. 

However, many things need to be kept in mind as well. For instance, just because your high temperature doesn't mean that you have COVID. Do get yourself tested if that happens to be 100% sure. Alternatively, some COVID-infected people don't contact a fever. So, the high temperature could only be telling one part of the story. 

If your test comes back positive, it's best to take time off at work. There are various programs put in place to protect the interest of employees if they are unable to work because of COVID-19 symptoms. 

Can I get fired for not showing up at work because of COVID-19?

As per the Cal/OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standards, employers need to maintain your earnings, in all forms, and other benefits that you enjoy at your workplace, including your seniority and job status, among other things, if they return you home for showcasing signs of COVID, and advise you to isolate yourself for a given period. This privilege only extends if you cannot prevent the spread of the virus and keep the transmission low. Any employer who infringes this rule shall be punishable by law, and you can exercise this right of yours by connecting with the concerned authority. 

What are employers likely to do if they find that one of their employees has been exposed to COVID but isn't showing signs of illness?

If an employer finds one of the employees displaying symptoms of COVID-19, they are in their full right to separate such employees from healthy ones. Although, as per the CDC, it shouldn't be mandatory for the employees to provide the employer with their COVID-19 test result, or the note from their health professional, as the hospitals could be too overwhelmed with the caseloads to provide such documents. 

Alternatively, if the employer has reasons to believe that their employee was exposed to COVID but isn't showing any symptoms, yet again they can ask them to isolate themselves for around two weeks. 

How To Protect Yourself?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended some safety measures to all employees to ensure that they don't have to face the eventuality of halting their work to recover from COVID. 

Here are the recommendations are given by the authority that you could follow to protect yourself from unnecessary trouble:

Here are some safety measures uniquely designed for workplace protection: