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Washington Union Shop Stewards Pay Reduction Appropriate for Possessing Confidential Prisoner Medical Information

The State of Washington Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) has a prison nurse who viewed confidential material from a prisoners medical file in her capacity as a shop steward properly was sanctioned a pay reduction when that information was was being used for personal purposes.

Before the PAB was the appeal of Diane Burnham, a nurse at Monroe Correctional Institution (MCI). The facts of this case are identical as those in Ferguson v. Department of Corrections, PAB No: RED-01-0029 (2002). In that case Ferguson removed a copy of a Mental Health Progress Note Primary Encounter Report (PERF) from a prisoner’s medical file, which was used to complain that her name was used in that report.

While Burnham was sensitive to the issue of confidentiality during the incident, she still violated policy by having in her possession a copy of the prisoner’s confidential medical information. The PAB said she inappropriately utilized that information, and as a union shop steward she “had a responsibility to advise Ms. Ferguson to comply with agency policies rather than assist her in violating the policies.”

As such, the temporary two-step reduction in Burnham’s pay was found to be appropriate. See: Burnham v. Department of Corrections, PAB No: RED-01-0027 (2002). The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Burnham v. Department of Corrections