Genetic information is becoming ubiquitous in research and medicine. The cost of genetic analysis continues to fall, and its medical and personal value continues to grow. Anticipating this age of genetic medicine, policymakers passed laws and regulations years ago to protect Americans’ privacy and prevent misuse of their health-related information. But a bill moving through the House of Representatives, called the (H.R. 1313), would preempt key protections. Because the bill, which was sent to the full House by the Education and the Workforce Committee in March, would substantially change legal protections related to the collection and treatment of personal health and genetic information by workplace wellness programs, it should be on the radar screens of physicians, researchers, and the public.
But good privacy practice is not just about avoiding complaints, grievances, or lawsuits. Whether or not privacy is protected by law or contract, fostering a workplace culture where privacy is valued and respected contributes to morale and mutual trust, and makes good business sense.
The extent of the right to privacy in French employee’s …
At a minimum, employers should tell their employees what personal information will be collected, used, and disclosed. They should inform employees of their policies on Web, e-mail, and telephone use, for example. If employees are subject to random or continuous surveillance, they need to be told so.
Questions Abound About Employee Cellphone Privacy …
In many workplaces, practices like the ones outlined above are required by law, and employees have legal means to assert their rights. Employees may also have enforceable rights to privacy under collective agreements.
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Employers have legitimate requirements for personal information about their employees. They need to know who they're hiring. They need to address performance issues and ensure the physical security of their workplace. And they may see electronic monitoring and other surveillance as necessary to ensure productivity, stop leaks of confidential information, and prevent workplace harassment.
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Though unauthorized access may represent the actions of an individual for their own purposes, accountability remains with the organization that maintains the responsibility and obligation to protect personal information from unauthorized use or disclosure. Below, we provide tips, drawn from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada's (OPC) experience in investigations in this area, on ways to prevent and address employee snooping.
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Perhaps the most important element in the prevention of employee snooping is an organization’s culture of privacy, as it supports the effectiveness of all other measures. This starts with the establishment of clear expectations and requirements for employees. Develop a set of comprehensive privacy policies and procedures, and reflect and operationalize them in concrete practices, to ensure that employees: (i) understand that privacy is a core organizational value, and (ii) know what this means for their day-to-day activities. Further, give your organization’s privacy officer (or a similar role) a clear mandate to educate, monitor compliance, and investigate and address violations. When the importance of, and practices associated with, respecting privacy are front-of-mind, employees are less likely to snoop without thinking — helping to avoid incidents based on impulsiveness, misunderstanding or curiosity.
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Public employees. Public employees are also protected by the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that there is a federal constitutional right to personal privacy. Thus, public employers must be very careful to avoid practices that infringe upon their employees’ reasonable expectations of privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution.