E-mailing fired employee’s termination letter violated privacy: privacy commissioner

Employer said letter contained work-related information for job candidate

An Alberta company illegally violated a former employee’s privacy when it e-mailed his termination letter to a prospective employee, the office of the information and privacy commissioner has ruled.

On Oct. 19, 2005, a staff member of Point Centric Inc., a Calgary-based systems integration and services company, was discussing a job candidate’s potential duties if he was hired. The candidate’s potential job duties were directly affected by the circumstances of the former employee’s dismissal, so the staffer e-mailed a copy of the former employee’s letter of termination to the candidate. After finding out, the former employee filed a complaint, arguing the disclosure of his personal information to a third party without his consent was contrary to Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).

Point Centric argued the disclosure was for business reasons as it was pertinent to the hiring of the prospective employee, but did not provide any direct evidence from the employee who did it as to why it was necessary.

The adjudicator found the termination letter contained personal information that is normally collected, used and disclosed for the purposes of managing or terminating the employment relationship. Since it was collected while the former employee still worked for the company, it was acceptable for Point Centric to have it, but the reason it was disclosed was not related to the reason it was collected. Because the employment relationship was over, Point Centric had no right to release it under PIPA.

The adjudicator ruled the personal information was inappropriately disclosed and ordered Point Centric to stop providing it to prospective employees. See Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Order P2007-005 (Feb. 14, 2008), F. Work — Commissioner.

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