Legal Question in Employment Law in Tennessee

I was working for private surgery practice, time split between OR scheduling and Insurance Collections. This fact was public knowledge, with all business contacts and employees knowing which job I was working and how to reach me. Info also given to patients, so they could reach me as needed. I was emailed by a former employee (she left to take a job closer to home, parted on good terms, still friendly with staff) because she hadn't heard from me in a bit. She said and I.quote 'hey, how are you? Haven't heard from you in awhile. Wasn't sure where you were working today.'. I responded by saying 'good to hear from you. How are you? Working Insurance Collections for awhile.'. It is known that our employer reads our emails and has been known to question anything he sees as objectionable. He read this email yesterday,which I thought to be perfectly harmless, brought me into conference room today, and told me I could resign and get my severance of unused vacation and PTO or be fired and get nothing. I.asked on what grounds and he said the aforementioned email violates our confidentiality agreement in that I disclosed practice information with a former employee to make him look bad. I asked how where I was working could be confidential as it is given out to business contacts and patients? He said that practice lawyers assure him it is a direct violation of confidentiality agreement. I took involuntary resignation, as I termed it in my exit interview paperwork, and gave detailed description of events and how I vehemently disagreed with employer. My question is for my own can my statement of where I am working be considered confidential when it is given to patients, hospitals , insurance companies, etc? Makes no sense to me as I provided no details of practice business, no HIPPA violation, no financial info, nothing. I had been employed there for 5 years, always had a good work record, never so much as a verbal warning, much less any type of disciplinary action.

Asked on 1/29/13, 8:52 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Alan Crone Crone & McEvoy, PLC

It does appear to me that your boss overreacted to this situation. It would be pure speculation on my part to give an explanation or justification for his actions. Based on the way you described the situation that information may not be secret, but for whatever reason he may have objected to you confirming that information via email. I don't know. Since Tennessee is an employment at will state, any worker can be fired at any time for any reason (except illegal reasons, inclusion in a protected category, engaging in protected activity, etc...). There is no law that says your boss has to be fair, right, or smart. I am sure that more"stuff" motivated his actions than just that one incident; What? I do not know. Every pancake no matter how thin has two sides.

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Answered on 1/30/13, 9:26 am

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