The Privacy Commissioner has upheld a claim of breach of privacy after a DHB failed to deal appropriately with a complaint about a breach of privacy.  The employee was a doctor at the DHB and had been treated by the Emergency Department of the hospital.  The doctor discovered later that colleagues knew about his medical information and had accessed his file for no good reason.

When the doctor complained to his employer about the breach of privacy it carried out an internal investigation and concluded that there was no inappropriate access.  It also failed to provide him with correspondence between other employees relating to the doctor.

The Privacy Commissioner found that the colleagues should never have accessed the doctor’s file as they had no reason to do so and the DHB should have provided access to the internal communications.

An employer must takes steps to protect information it holds about its employees from inappropriate access by other employees and must properly investigate any complaints about breaches of privacy and release information about employees to them when they request it.

Although not covered by this case it would be possible for the employee to also lodge a complaint with the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in relation to the actions taken by his colleagues when accessing his file for no good reason.

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Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer