#CyberFLASH: How To Discipline Cyber-Snooping Employees

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In a digitized world, it can be all too easy for unauthorized employees to access confidential information in the workplace, as recent breaches at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and some Ontario hospitals have shown. Employers should be prepared to take appropriate disciplinary action against employees who snoop into personal information. In some instances, termination of employment may be appropriate. To minimize liability for wrongful dismissal claims, employers should take careful steps to prevent snooping in the first place and be ready to investigate and discipline employees appropriately if an incident occurs.

Privacy Commissioner: Consider Firing Employees with Prying Eyes

Employers will welcome the comments of Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski, who recently took a strong stance against snooping workers, after two employees at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency were disciplined for prying into the health records of 48 people. Health information should only be accessed by staff caring for patients, and even then, only on a need-to-know basis. The agency learned of the breaches in May and conducted an investigation. The employees were asked why they had looked at the records, but no explanations were forthcoming.

“In extreme cases, I think the firing option should be considered” when an employee pokes their nose where it doesn’t belong, Kruzeniski said. He noted, however, that the “circumstances of each case are also very relevant”. For example, unintentional access may occur when names are mis-typed.

An Ounce of Prevention

Cyber-snooping should be taken seriously, and termination of employment may indeed be appropriate in serious cases. To minimize liability for wrongful dismissal claims, employers should take careful steps to prevent snooping in the first place and be ready to investigate and discipline employees appropriately if an incident occurs. By making it clear that snooping will not be tolerated, an employer may both decrease the incidence of snooping and strengthen their case for appropriate employee discipline if the rules are broken.

Consider taking the following steps:

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