Post # 1
I know there are lots of lawyer and HR professionals here that give great advice. Something just happened that I feel is a confidentiality violation but I’m not sure.
Someone from my workplace who has access to personnel files (she’s a bookkeeper) obtained my personal phone number and email to contact me after office hours. She called, texted, and emailed in sucession because she wanted the answer to a question that is work related (related to my job, not hers) and not at all urgent. After a text, some missed calls and an email from her I emailed her back something like this:
*answer to work question*
Also, how did you get my contact information? I don’t recall sharing my cell or email with you…
I’d also be happy to discuss this more tomorrow. My office hours are 8 AM – 5 PM.
She responded saying thanks for answering her question, and that she has access to personell files and would NEVER use that information unless “it was VERY important.”
Here are my issues with this:
A. It was NOT an urgent matter, it absolutely could have waited until the morning.
B. I’m not comfortable with her deciding when something is important enough to contact me outside of work.
C. I don’t think it’s acceptable for her to use her access to employee files to contact people at her discretion without them consenting to give their contact information to her. I don’t believe there’s any reason for a bookkeeper to need to do that.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe this isn’t a big deal…. but it didn’t sit right with me and feels like a violation of the privilleges of her position. I plan to let her know I’m not comfortable with her doing this in the future… But I’m not sure if this is only a matter of boundaries and privacy… I have a gut feeling that what she did was technically illegal and if that’s the case I’d like to reference the fact to back up what I say so she can’t dismiss it. Thoughts? I live in Oregon if that makes any difference?
Post # 2
Ughh so creepy! I’d go to her boss AND hr. So inappropriate on so many levels.
Post # 3
I don’t know about illegal, but more than likely against company policy. She could most definitely be written up, and maybe even terminated. I would think personnel files have sensitive info like pay scale (in my office if you even tell another employee what you make, you’re fired, so this would fall into that category) and any kind of verbal/written warnings etc. Not to say you have those, but it should still be confidential. I’ve used my employees files to contact people before, but I was also their direct supervisor and had access to this info. Also never used it unless it was life or death. To me, that’s a bigger issue is that it could’ve waited until the following work day. I don’t think it’s worth reporting simply because I couldn’t have a termination on my conscience if it came to that.
Post # 4
I would report the incident to HR. I doubt she will be fired for a first offense, and if it’s not her first offense and she is fired, that would be her fault, nothing to be on your conscience.
Post # 5
This likely isn’t anywhere close to being illegal. Let HR know if you’re that bothered about it. But it’s really not a big deal.
Post # 6
Thank you for validating my belief that her actions were innapropriate! I find myself going back and forth on how big of a deal I think this is…
That’s interesting, I’ll have to reread the handbook when I’m back at work tomorrow. I’m confident that she would not be terminated. We are a very small organization (I’m the Director of my department and also the only person in my department for what it’s worth, haha) and our boss IS HR and he is a big fan of her work. He’s very fair, though. I might still mention it to him though just to bring to his attention, I’m not sure yet…
Post # 7
Thank you for the feedback! I appreciate the differing opinions.
Post # 8
Yeah I’m a bit surprised that other people aren’t bothered by a book keeper digging up their personal info, calling/texting/emailing outside of work and pretending its something urgent.
I have access to my departments full info, but I would have my ass handed to me if I called up someone on their personal cell for something.
Post # 9
What the fuuuuuu!!! I don’t think this is okay AT ALL. I don’t know anything regarding the legality, but I feel like this is an abuse of her position’s privileges. A message to your work email should have sufficed.
I actually probably would mention to HR that you don’t want work sent through personal communications, not on the clock, and then I would never respond to those initiations if this happens again.
Post # 10
I value my privacy and like to keep work separate from my personal life, but I guess everyone has different comfort levels with this sort of thing. I’m also a young professional and am new to my current position… so I guess even though my gut says this is inappropriate I don’t have enough experience to say so with all certainty so I was hoping to see what the consensus was from the bees.
Post # 11
“abuse of her positions privileges” is exactly what I thought, too. That is the part that bothers me most.
Post # 12
This is illegal in Europe and will be illegal in California soon, due to new personal data privacy laws. I believe Massachusetts and Delaware are going to have new data privacy laws up for debate soon too. You should report this so the accountant can be re-trained, along with whatever other action your employer wants to take.
Post # 13
Yeeeahhhh naaaahhh you can’t do that hey. Seeking out then using someone’s personal info? Nuh uh.
Post # 14
This is so inappropriate. I would absolutely let your boss know. 100% abusing her privileges.
Post # 15
I think you should tell her first that you don’t wish to be contacted outside of work and the next time you will report her to HR. I think it would be too high handed and arsy of you to report to HR directly behind her back. It could have been an honest mistake and especially as you are in a small organisation it probably works differently to larger organisations.
In this case I think your making a mountain of a molehill and just being super arsy reporting someone who is enthusiastic about her job to HR.
This is not just about the law but also tells your boss and coworkers around you about your communication skills and how you as a person handle issues.