Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Playbook: Confidentiality in the Workplace: Part Two

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Playbook: Confidentiality in the Workplace: Part Two

Article excerpt

A manager has an obligation to keep employee information private.

In the first article of this series (see the March issue of Parks & Recreation) we explored the legal and financial consequences of breaching confidentiality and detailed the entitlement of confidentiality due to applicants, whether they become employees or not.

With disgruntled applicants, employees and former employees turning more frequently to the courts for resolution, it is critical that supervisors arm themselves with solid management practices to prevent problems from becoming lawsuits.

In the second article of this three-part series, we'll explore two common breaches of confidentiality that occur between managers and staff: through conversations and in e-mails.

The Water Cooler Disclosure

Consider this casual exchange between two supervisors:

"So where's Jane today?"

"Oh, she had an all-day doctor's appointment."

"Is everything okay?"

"Yes, yes. She and her husband are trying invitro fertilization. They've been trying to get pregnant for awhile now. I sure hope they have better luck this time."

It is an innocent exchange. Jane's supervisor was well intentioned in her disclosure, reassuring the other supervisor that Jane was not ill. But sharing that kind of personal information was a breach of confidentiality.

How does this simple exchange become a six-figure lawsuit?

Two months from now, Jane is up for a promotion under the supervisor who received the inappropriate disclosure. Jane is clearly the most qualified candidate, but recalling that Jane is trying to become pregnant, the interviewing supervisor chooses a less qualified candidate instead to avoid hiring someone who may take leave in the next year.

Whether Jane's current supervisor slipped up, the interviewing supervisor is headed for a discrimination lawsuit. …

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