iapp-privacycore
PrivacyTraining_ad300x250.Promo1-01
PLF2015_AD-01

In March, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued a decision in a case filed by a former employee of a credit union in which the plaintiff sought damages for wrong dismissal (Steel v. Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, 2013 BCSC 527).

The plaintiff had been employed as a helpdesk analyst in the credit union’s IT department and was able to access any document or file as part of her duties. The credit union assigned each of its employees a “personal folder” on its IT system for the purpose of retaining confidential company information. A specific protocol relating to access to these folders by helpdesk employees provided that access to these folders could only be made with the permission of the folder’s owner or with the authorization of the VP of corporate security.

The credit union did not have in place any monitoring to determine which documents plaintiff had accessed and for what purposes she had accessed those documents. Plaintiff’s job description, however, included a statement that she would “Respect the privacy and confidentiality of all customer and staff information at all times.”

After discovering that plaintiff had accessed a document in a personal folder of another employee without the proper authorization and in violation of the credit union’s policies, plaintiff’s employment was terminated.

The court concluded that, in the circumstances, the conduct was just cause for dismissal. In its decision the court noted that plaintiff occupied a position of great trust in an industry in which trust is of central importance. A relationship of trust has been found to be particularly critical in the banking industry, where employees are held to a higher standard of trust than employees in other commercial or industrial undertakings. In this case, the credit union had established clear policies and protocols that were known to the plaintiff and, in her position as a helpdesk analyst, she was given the ability to access confidential documents.

The court found that it was not practicable for the credit union to monitor which documents plaintiff accessed and for what purpose, and it had to trust plaintiff to obey its policies and to follow the protocols and only access such documents as part of the performance of her duties.

In upholding plaintiff’s termination, the court decided that plaintiff had violated that trust in two distinct and important ways: She opened a confidential document in another employee’s file for her own purposes—not as part of her duties and not at anyone’s request—and violated the protocols governing situations for remote access of others’ folders; specifically, she did not have permission to do so from the document’s owner or from anyone entitled to grant such permission.

Impact for Organizations

Organizations should ensure they have in place specific policies and protocols that govern access to confidential documents. This is especially important for those who, by the very nature of their job, have access to files such as personnel files and other such very confidential information. These policies must be effectively and regularly communicated to employees through regular training and use of technologically based methods—consider using pop-up screens to remind high-risk employees of access limitations when opening specifically flagged sensitive files.

While in this case the lack of a monitoring system did not play into the court’s decision, system-based logging of employee access, with effective flagging of unexpected access attempts, is an effective way to ensure employee compliance with the organization’s policies and protocols.

Written By

John Jager, CIPP/C, CIPP/G, CIPP/US

Comments

If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

Related

Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Talk privacy and network with local members at IAPP KnowledgeNet Chapter meetings, taking place worldwide.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

The Privacy Core™ Library Has Evolved

Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials just expanded to include seven new units for marketers. Keep your data safe and your staff in the know!

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Let’s Get You DPO Ready

There’s no better time to train than right now! We have all the resources you need to meet the challenges of the GDPR.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

CIPP/E + CIPM = DPO

The IAPP’S CIPP/E and CIPM are the ANSI/ISO-accredited, industry-recognized combination for DPO readiness. Learn more today.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Are You Ready for the GDPR?

Check out the IAPP's EU Data Protection Reform page for all the tools and resources you need.

IAPP-OneTrust PIA Platform

New U.S. Government Agency privacy impact assessments - free to IAPP members!

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

More Resources »

Europe Data Protection Intensive 2017

The Intensive is sold out! But cancellations do happen—so hurry and get on the wait list in case more seats become available.

Global Privacy Summit 2017

The world’s premier privacy conference returns with the sharpest minds, unparalleled programs and preeminent networking opportunities.

Canada Privacy Symposium 2017

The Symposium returns to Toronto this spring and registration has opened! Take advantage of Early Bird rates and join your fellow privacy pros for another stellar program.

The Privacy Bar Section Forum 2017

The Privacy Bar Section Forum is sold out! But you can still add your name to the wait list, and we'll keep in touch about your status. Good luck!

Asia Privacy Forum 2017

Call for Speakers open! Join the Forum in Singapore for exclusive networking and intensive education on data protection trends and challenges in the Asia Pacific region.

Privacy. Security. Risk. 2017

We're bringing the best of the best in privacy and infosecurity to sunny San Diego. Early registration for P.S.R. opens May 1.

Europe Data Protection Congress 2017

Call for Speakers open! The Congress is your source for European policy debate, multi-level strategic thinking and thought-provoking discussion. Submit a proposal by March 19.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»