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Dear Abby 4/24

Manager has no business spreading gossip at work

DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Invaded" (March 9), and her description of the behavior of "Thelma," the gossipy coordinator, I was disgusted. That woman should be reported to personnel for her nosiness and big mouth.
    Medical and mental health information are private. And the card to the woman who'd had a miscarriage may have been extremely hurtful if she didn't want anyone to know. Most women who have had multiple miscarriages don't tell anyone until they are sure they will carry the baby to term. Returning to work and talking to people who do not have the need to know is hard for them.
    I can't believe the gall of that woman. Maybe she needs a heavier workload to keep her busy, or to be dismissed! -- DISGUSTED IN FORT COLLINS, COLO.
    DEAR DISGUSTED: A number of people who, like you, were appalled by "Thelma's" behavior, or had similar stories to share, weighed in on "Invaded's" letter. Read on:
    DEAR ABBY: "Thelma" has exposed herself and her employer to fines upward of $25,000 and other regulatory action. "Invaded" should immediately contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights. This woman's "gossip" is far more than annoying. It's a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
    This law was designed to protect the privacy of all Americans with regard to their medical information. The Office for Civil Rights specifically handles violations of the act. A fact sheet on how to file a complaint is available at www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacyhowtofile.htm. -- JOE IN ATLANTA
    DEAR ABBY: With regard to "Thelma" asking her co-workers about their private medical business, I went through the same thing at one of my previous jobs. I found that if you turn the tables, things change rapidly.
    A woman in our office always asked the most inappropriately personal questions and made everyone around her uncomfortable. We squirmed for months, until one of my friends suggested the following idea.
    All of us in the office got together and made a list of the top 100 worst questions you could ever be asked. We all kept copies of them in our desks, and whenever "our Thelma" came around to one of us, we picked one to sincerely and innocently ask her. After trying to hem and haw her way out of questions about her sex life, her hair dye and various other things, she finally started avoiding us — to the point of turning around and heading the other way whenever she saw one of us coming.
    Problem solved! We found that a little of her own medicine worked wonders. -- TERRY T., ST. JOSEPH, MO.
    DEAR ABBY: Tell "Invaded" to get a medical dictionary. When asked for a reason for medical leave, give the most complicated explanation of the illness. Words like "projectile vomiting," "explosive diarrhea" or "rhinorrhea with catarrh" will usually stop the conversation. -- JANE IN BERKELEY, CALIF.
    DEAR ABBY: I also live in New Bern, N.C., and gossip in this town is not limited to her law firm — it's pervasive. I know the focus of "Invaded's" letter was labor law, but there's also the issue of emotional pain that gossip can cause when a person is going through a difficult time. If you're not a close friend or relative who is providing emotional support during a time of need, you should not be discussing the person's personal life. Period. -- CAN'T WAIT TO MOVE

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