A prospective employer has reached a confidential settlement with a prospective employee for contacting and discussing the interview with his current employer.

A man resigned from his job and went to an interview during his notice period. He specifically told the interview panel that he did not want them to contact his current employer.

A woman from the interview panel was a friend of the employee’s current manager. She told the manager that the employee was interviewing for a position. Ultimately, the employee was not offered the position.

The employee complained to the Privacy Commissioner that the prospective employer breached his privacy by disclosing details of his interview.

The Commissioner held that the prospective employer interfered with the employee’s privacy in breach of principle 11 of the Privacy Act. This principle only allows disclosure of personal information in limited circumstances such as when the disclosure is authorised by the person the information is about.

The Privacy Commissioner explained that the woman from the interview panel disclosed the employee’s personal information by telling his manager that he attended the interview, without his permission.

Additionally, the Commissioner explained that to have an interference with privacy, there must also be harm resulting from the breach. This can include significant humiliation, significant loss of dignity or significant injury to the feelings of an individual. The employee’s feelings of being upset, extreme worry, anxiousness and concern about being given a poor reference met the requirements for harm.

The Privacy Commissioner helped reach a confidential settlement between the prospective employer and employee.

It is important that employers are aware of their obligations to potential, current, and past employees. Failure to abide by these obligations may result in an investigation by the commissioner, or potentially expensive court cases and settlements.

If you are unsure about your privacy obligations toward your employees, it pays to speak with a professional experienced in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.