Over the years IBEW Local 15 has received a number of complaints from members about incidents at clinics they were directed to report to by the company, as part of a Fit for Work (FFW) exam assignment and/or medical evaluation. In order to best represent our members, IBEW Local 15 has asked our attorneys to look into what our members rights are when reporting to these clinics. Below is a rundown of those rights.
What are employee’s basic rights?
Under Illinois law, an employee has the right to: receive care consistent with sound nursing and medical practices; to be informed of the name of the physician responsible for coordinating his or her care; to receive information concerning his or her condition and proposed treatment; to refuse any treatment to the extent permitted by law; and to privacy and confidentiality of records except as otherwise provided by law. 410 ILCS 50/3(a).
Under Illinois law, any physician, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, etc., who provides treatment or care to a patient shall inform the patient of his or her profession upon providing the treatment or care, which includes but is not limited to any physical examination. 410 ILCS 50/7.
Consistent with a patient’s right to receive information concerning treatment, a patient can always ask a heath care facility about its policies on patient rights which includes having to disrobe and/or change into dressing gowns and potential alternatives. In addition, a patient can always ask the health care provider to explain what he or she is doing and why during an examination.
Employees should thoroughly read anything they are asked to sign before, during and/or after an exam, and should request a copy of any such document prior to leaving the clinic.
Who can be present in an examination room?
An employee generally has the option of requesting the presence of a family member or friend during an examination or visit. An employee can ask the health care facility about its policy on allowing other individuals to accompany them during the examination. Under the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), unless an employee objects, a physician can disclose protected health information and information related to the employee’s health care to a family member, relative, a close personal friend or anyone else the employee chooses to have in the examination room. 40 C.F.R. § 164.510(b).
An employee can also request the presence of a chaperone during an examination. According to the American Medical Association, Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 1.2.4. The chaperone is a member of the facility’s medical team who can help facilitate, explain, and/or act as a witness to examinations and what is said during such visits.
What if you believe a health care professional acted unprofessionally during an examination?
An employee should contact HR and OHS immediately if they believe a health care professional has acted or is acting unprofessionally and/or if they feel uncomfortable during an examination. The Company contends that FFW exams are job assignments, in which case an employee could be disciplined for insubordination if he/she refuses to participate. To comply with just cause, the Company must show that an employee disobeyed a reasonable order.
The doctor at the clinic is acting as the Company’s agent, and in some circumstances, it may be unreasonable for a doctor to instruct an employee to disrobe and/or change into a dressing gown. Absent any immediate danger to health or safety, if an incident occurs an employee should call HR immediately to report such, before leaving the clinic. Employees have the right to complain about harassment on the job, an uncomfortable work environment, and unsafe working conditions, and cannot be retaliated against for doing so. If an employee feels as though they have been treated unfairly or unprofessionally at the clinic they should file a formal complaint with HR.
A patient generally has the option of filing a complaint with the health care facility regarding the treatment he or she received. An employee can ask the health care facility about its internal complaint process.
An employee can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation against a licensed professional (nurse, physician assistant, physician, for example). The Department may revoke, suspend, place on probation, reprimand refuse to issue, or take any other disciplinary or non-disciplinary action against a licensed professional for, among other things, engaging in immoral conduct or engaging dishonorable, unethical, or unprofessional conduct of a character likely to deceive, defraud, or harm the public. 225 ILCS 60/22. The complaint will be investigated by the Division of Professional Regulation. More information can be found at https://www.idfpr.com/
Finally, employees can also seek advice from an outside attorney if they have experienced any problems with clinic visits required by the Company.