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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a motion to compel a medical center to allow the EEOC to conduct an onsite inspection of the essential functions of a licensed practical nurse and roving depositions of other personnel within the surgical department. The District Court in Mississippi denied the EEOC’s motion pointing to concerns over patient privacy and treatment disruption and found that the information sought would be of limited use and could be obtained elsewhere. EEOC v. Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC.

This ruling is of obvious value to health care facilities. However, consideration should also be given to expanding these arguments to other facilities where confidentiality may be compromised.

The EEOC claimed the medical center violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing an LPN because of her alleged disability.  It served a Rule 34(a)(2) Request for Entry on the medical center facility for inspection and other purposes.  The EEOC wanted to inspect, examine and observe the general operations of the surgical department, the type of equipment and/or instruments commonly used, the layout of the department, and the feasibility of certain accommodations. It also wanted to measure the amount of force required to push-pull certain equipment, to observe the day-to-day job functions and duties of the LPN and other positions, and to ask medical staff questions while they worked.   Inspectors/observations were to include the claimant, the EEOC’s attorney and its vocational rehabilitation expert. The medical center objected on several grounds including that it was unduly intrusive, burdensome, harassing, and overly broad.

In denying the EEOC’s motion to compel, the court noted that the time and expense incurred by the medical center would not be a significant burden. However, the court was convinced that the possible disruption of patient care and the risk of compromising patient rights to confidentiality were significant. Simply observing normal operations within the department would likely expose inspectors to the exchange of confidential patient information.  In light of these concerns over patient privacy and treatment disruption, and because the court determined that the information sought would likely be of limited use, the motion to compel was denied. The court noted the EEOC could obtain the information by other means including from the claimant and through depositions and other discovery mechanisms.