Q. An employee called me and told me he wasn’t coming to work because he has bronchitis. I told the rest of the department why the employee is absent. Did I violate HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)? — Jes, Maryland
A. No. First, most employers are not a “covered entity” under HIPAA. Health insurance companies and doctors’ offices, for example, need to get individuals’ authorization before releasing medical information under HIPAA. Second, the information is not “protected health information”—you did not receive the information from a covered entity. If you learned of the employee’s condition through the health plan, then it would be protected health information.