5 Ways You Could Be Breaching Employee Privacy Laws

by Andrew Johnson | September 15, 2018 1:30 pm

Every employee has several rights at work. These include a right to privacy, a right to freedom from discrimination and a right to fair compensation. Federal and state governments have implemented many employment laws designed to protect employees from being treated unfairly or with discrimination. These laws also help secure them against unsafe work environments.

“Always conduct your business in a way that respects your employees and their family information as it must be treated privately and confidentially,” advises the CFO of GBS Corporate Training[1]. The following examples are five ways you could be breaching their privacy rights.

1. Publishing an employee’s personal phone number

When you use applications such as Excel to list work schedules and rosters, you might list everyone’s mobile numbers. This is meant to make it easier to contact people to find out why they are late or to get coverage for another shift.

When you publish a schedule or roster with their personal cell phone numbers on it and post it in the workplace, you are putting them and your business at risk. Sure it is handy to have access to phone numbers so you can find someone to call if another employee is sick. But, while it is unlikely to happen, it could get into the wrong hands.

Identity theft is a growing problem. By posting private phone numbers in public you could be aiding a stalker without knowing it. You could open yourself up to facing a harassment lawsuit.

2. Using e-mail for private conversations

Most employers use e-mail to routinely communicate all kinds of things, casual and professional with employees. Sometimes the casual communications are borderline personal. Keep private conversations private and away from e-mails[2].

It is too easy to copy or forward what is put in black and white. Doing such a thing can also get you into trouble and ruin your employer’s brand. Choose what you communicate over e-mail carefully.

3. Keeping employee files insecure

You are required to keep records of your business. It is a task no one enjoys but it is a must.

The laws in Australia require that employee records are retained for seven years. These records include employee names, date of commencement, pay, and more. In America, most tax records are to be retained for at least four years. If anyone is injured in the office those records should be held onto for 10 years.

Keep sensitive information on these records secure[3]. Use an online system rather than paper files. You get easy access to records but secure this private data.

4. Keep the office records clean

You have to hold on to the information described above. However, you need to destroy it when it is no longer needed. If you hold onto old information, it could pose problems with identity theft or it could cause your business to be faced with legal challenges.

5. Protect data

Do you think you are safe now that you have enacted a compliant personal data protection policy? That is only one step you must take. Enforcing that policy is just as important. You should create a personal data protection policy that accounts for all the data you collect and hold onto.

Have your employees sign copies of the policy. Place a copy in their HR files so that your company has an audit trail showing that the policy is always being adhered to and enforced. Your employees will appreciate that you are looking out for them and that you are obeying privacy laws.

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  1. GBS Corporate Training: https://www.gbscorporate.com/about
  2. Keep private conversations private and away from e-mails: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/08/conversations-online-are-forever-now-heres-how-to-keep-yours-private/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6218a51b4d6a
  3. Keep sensitive information on these records secure: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/informationsecurity/itsecurity/knowledgebase/securitybaselines/encryption/guidance-storage-sensitive-data

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