Court to Determine If Psychiatrist’s Termination was In Fact Due to HIPAA Violation


Steward Healthcare System in Boston terminated Psychiatrist Alexander Lipin for purportedly violating HIPAA rules. But, Lipin rejected the accusation and professed that his dismissal was to get back at him for extending his disability leave.

Dr. Lipin asked to extend his disability leave as a result of being infected with pneumonia. Steward Healthcare System granted the request. Dr. Lipin was expected to go back to work on March 2, 2016.  However Lipin was dismissed on February 23 while in his disability leave because he allegedly violated HIPAA rules, which as per Attorney Kavita M. Goyal, Lipin’s attorney, was merely an excuse to fire him.

According to George Clairmont, the President of Steward Medical Group, Dr. Lipin broke the HIPAA rules when he gave to law enforcement the protected health information of some patients. They found out about the HIPAA violation on January 16. They were supposed to fire him prior to taking his leave on January 26. They did not fire him right away due to the need to seek further advice from the company’s legal office regarding the nature of his dismissal. Should it take effect instantly, for cause or with no cause (which calls for 90 days’ notification or pay instead of notice)? George Clairmont additionally pointed out that Dr. Lipin was fired after Steward Healthcare System found that he was employed by Anna Jaques Hospital while on his leave.

Dr. Lipin submitted a lawsuit against Steward Medical Group Inc., Steward Healthcare System and the Holy Family Hospital for terminating him, which was transferred to federal court on November 2016. Massachusetts federal judge Leo T. Sorokin directed the case trial to continue so that details associated with the termination can be founded. A jury will make a decision after the case hearing if the psychiatrist’s termination was due to the fact that he broke the HIPAA rules or he got employed in another hospital as he was on leave.

Here are the presented facts:

On February 5, Dr. Lipin enjoyed his leave up till February 17.

On February 12, he informed Steward Healthcare that he is continuing his leave until February 23.

He extended his leave once more until March 2 on February 20.

On February 13, Steward Healthcare found out that Lipin performed services for Anna Jaques Hospital during the mornings while on his leave.

On February 23, Lipin was terminated.

Judge Sorokin mentioned that there is no proof that contradicts George Clairmont’s account. However the fact that Steward Healthcare failed to act on the coverage of Lipin’s patients nor dismissed Lipin prior to February 13, it appears that Steward Healthcare simply chose to terminate Lipin right after discovering that he had another job. The pre-trial conference was scheduled on May 30, 2018.