A breach of confidentiality in the workplace is an occurrence that happens more often than it's made known to the public. Confidentiality is a very significant workplace issue because failure to secure and protect confidential business information can result in the loss of clients and business, or even worse. If exposed to the wrong people and situations, confidential information is potentially used to engage in illegal activity such as fraud or discrimination, which can lead to expensive and damaging lawsuits for all involved.

The exposure of vulnerable management and employee private information, which is very sensitive and possibly devastating, can result in employees losing their trust in management and that could also lead to a loss of loyalty, confidence, and a loss in employee productivity.

What Type of Information Should Have Rigorous Safeguarding?

Confidential workplace information is classified into three categories: employee information, management information, and business information. Numerous states have laws in place that oversee the discretion and discarding of certain personal identifying information belonging to employees, such as:

  • Social Security number
  • Telephone number
  • Home address
  • Email address
  • Internet username and/or password
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Driver's license number

What Steps Can a Business and You Take to Protect Your Confidentiality?

Every business, company, or organization, should have a written confidentiality policy for their employees included in their handbook that describes the kinds of personal information that's deemed to be confidential and protected by privacy laws. It should also entail the procedures that all employees have to observe to protect all confidential information.

All employers need to abide by and enforce certain guidelines and laws to protect employee confidential information, such as:

  • Keeping an individual folder for each employee to hold their I-9s and employee medical information forms. In fact, all employees should have their own folder containing all confidential information.
  • All confidential employee documents need to be in a locking file cabinet or in a secured room that is accessible only to the people who are responsible for the private information.
  • When working with private information by electronic means, all information has to have protection by encryption, firewalls, and passwords.
  • Employers need to enforce that employees clear their desks and workspaces of all confidential information before leaving at the end of their shift.
  • Employers need to make sure that employees know not to leave their confidential information in sight on their computer monitors when they are absent from their desk or workspace for any length of time because it can be seen by anyone that is in close proximity.
  • All confidential employee information that is either in the form of written documents or recorded using an electronic medium needs to have the label "confidential" clearly visible on all documentation.
  • All confidential information intended for discarding has to have careful handling by employers and employees. For example, all confidential documents that are hard copies need to go through a shredder before disposal.
  • Employees need to avoid discussing confidential information belonging to them or other people in casual conversation or in public places where other people who shouldn't have knowledge of that sensitive information can have access to it and use it.
  • Employees need to refrain from using email to transmit private or sensitive information.
  • Restrict the amount of confidential employee information acquired, such as driver's license numbers, social security numbers, and bank account numbers, unless it is pertinent to a business transaction. Also, make sure to restrict access to private information to those whose job it is to deal and know employee private information.
  • Before employers get rid of an old computer, it is vital to make sure the hard drive has been completely wiped clean of all data by using software programs that were specifically designed to delete all information contained on the computer or disable the hard drive.

If you have any further questions about breach of confidentiality in the workplace or if you think your private information has been or can be mishandled with conceivably damaging repercussions to you, the lawyers at UpCounsel.com are there to assist you. Post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace to ask any legal questions concerning this issue and how it can impact you.

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