FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 12, 2015
Contact: Chris Dauphin
Phone: (615) 256-4533, 800-251-8732
Statement by TSEA President Bryan Merritt on
publishing detailed personal information about state employees
A citizen shouldn’t have to forfeit their privacy rights by choosing a career in state service or by electing to receive a benefit offered to them as part of their compensation. The recent publishing by the media of certain state employees’ detailed personal information in an effort to disgrace those employees sets a troubling precedent.
As we have indicated before, TSEA has no position on Insure Tennessee; unfortunately, the debate by the media has moved away from the merits of the proposal and on to publically shaming state employees, i.e. legislators that voted against Insure Tennessee who have access to a group insurance plan as part of their compensation package from the state.
First, our state health insurance is not a tax-payer subsidy. It is a benefit of employment that every state employee earns by their service to the state of Tennessee, including our state legislators.
Simply funding something with taxpayer dollars does not automatically make it a taxpayer subsidy. State employees’ taxpayer-funded salaries are not considered subsidies; neither should other parts of their compensation package. Claiming otherwise is simply misleading and untrue.
Secondly, detailed personal information about state employees should remain private, especially federally protected health information.
In addition, legislators shouldn’t have to fear personal retaliation as a result of executing the duties of their office, even if the public is outraged by the outcome. If we don’t agree with a lawmaker’s decisions, we should vote them out.
Nevertheless, we find the recent Insure Tennessee-motivated attacks by the media toward state employees troubling and disappointing, and we hope a different strategy emerges; one which respects the privacy of our civil servants and observes federal HIPAA privacy protections.