“We’ve recently begun to suspect that one of our employees is abusing sick leave. Can we hire an investigator to conduct video surveillance? Are we able to obtain medical information directly from the employee’s doctor?”
“Our policies restrict the use of work computers for personal purposes, but it does not speak to the use of the Internet to access personal email. We would like to track employee usage to see how much time is wasted on personal email, but we have concerns about complaints over employee privacy.”
Protecting an employee’s personal life and confidential information has been a growing area of concern for employees and employers alike. The extent to which these issues are regulated depends on a number of factors, including whether the employer is provincially or federally regulated, whether the employer operates in the public or private sector, as well as the type of information that is being collected, stored, accessed or relied upon.
Increasingly, employers are insisting on greater access to medical records and more detailed information to manage their workforce and limit the occurrence of absenteeism. Understandably, workers often resist demands for such documentation due to sensitivities of the information itself and increased concerns over privacy and confidentiality. Similar conflicts arise where employers seek to monitor computer, email and Internet usage, install video cameras or otherwise engage in surreptitious video surveillance.
Employers must be aware of the rights, obligations and restrictions mandated by legislation such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Personal Health Information Protection Act, as well as a growing body of case law on these and similar issues.
To that end, our lawyers closely monitor the legislative developments in this area, assisting employers in auditing their information management practices and developing policies and procedures in compliance with privacy obligations. We also regularly advise on other privacy-related matters, such as the collection, disclosure, retention and destruction of confidential employee information, and the use various forms of electronic monitoring. When complaints arise, our lawyers are experienced in dealing with these issues and can help to resolve them quickly and effectively.