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Lawsuit: state officials disclosed vaccination statuses of hundreds of DPS employees

Your top local headlines for Nov. 4.
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:03 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:21 AM HST
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HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that Hawaii officials unlawfully disclosed the COVID-19 vaccination statuses of nearly 300 Department of Public Safety employees.

The Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers unions said in a lawsuit filed last week that vaccination statuses were “deliberately and intentionally released” in violation of medical privacy laws, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

According to the lawsuit, an internal email in August said, “You are receiving this email to notify you that you must upload a negative Covid-19 test every Monday,” using a web link.

The email used “carbon copy” or “cc” for recipients, instead of “blind carbon copy,” or “bcc,” which wouldn’t have shown the addresses of others receiving the message, the Hilo newspaper reported.

Department Director Max Otani, in response to a complaint letter, said a review found no unethical actions or violations of medical privacy laws, according to the lawsuit.

Otani said the human resources officer “mistakenly” placed the email addresses in the “cc” field instead of the “bcc” field and immediately but unsuccessfully tried to recall the email and apologized to those who received it.

The department said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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