Nosy co-worker should be stopped

Dear Abby: At my last job, there was a privacy policy in place in which no one could ask nor discuss another worker's medical condition or reason for taking medical leave. However, "Thelma," the coordinator at my present job (I've been here two years), constantly badgers us and insists that we tell her our reason for medical leave or what our medical condition is.

I have noticed that she repeats to others what is told to her; therefore I do not tell her anything.

Thelma recently sent around a sympathy card for everyone to sign for a woman in another department who had suffered a miscarriage. (I had no idea the woman was even pregnant.) I thought the card was tacky and a form of gossip, and I told the coordinator so. Her response to me was that this woman has had other miscarriages!

How can I put a stop to her insensitivity and gossip? Should I go over Thelma's head and report her, or confront her one-on-one? I feel like I'm in a no-win situation. Also, this is happening at a large, respectable law firm. She recently asked me why I had gone to the doctor, and I responded by saying, "Didn't I tell you? Then, I guess it's none of your business." She didn't get the hint (!) and resorted to asking my co-workers if they knew. - Invaded in New Bern, N.C.

Dear Invaded: According to my labor law guru, Nancy Bertrando: "In most states - if not all - people have the right to privacy with respect to any medical information. Employers have the right to require a physician's verification of a need for a medical leave, but not an underlying diagnosis. If Thelma asks you again, say, 'I'm not comfortable answering that question, and it's not appropriate for you to ask.' "

Frankly, I find it shocking that in a "large, respectable law firm" they don't already know and abide by this.

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.