New Zealand Law Society - Release of personal information in bullying complaint considered

Release of personal information in bullying complaint considered

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The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has released a case note about a complaint made by a former employee after a request to her former employer for a draft report on an investigation into her manager’s bullying.

The employer provided the report, but withheld information to protect the privacy of other individuals, including the manager.

The employee then sought the full unredacted draft report. She complained to the Privacy Commissioner under principle 6 of the Privacy Act 1993. Principle 6 provides that individuals have aright to request access to personal information held by an agency, subject to withholding grounds in Part 4 of the Act.

If the information is mixed, so that it also contains interactions with, or reference to other people, then the agency must consider whether: the information is about the requester, the information includes information about other people and if the disclosure of other people’s information would be unwarranted.

The employer reviewed the redactions after receiving the complaint. They concluded that while some of the redactions were incorrectly made, they stood by their original decision to withhold some information, relying on s 29 (1) (a) of the Privacy Act 1993.

Privacy Commissioner decision

The Privacy Commissioner agreed that the report did hold personal information about other individuals, but this did not mean that disclosure to the complainant would be unwarranted.

In this complaint the draft report stated, “the respondent and complainant would have a full opportunity to comment on the draft before being finalised”.

The Commissioner concluded that all personal information about the complainant in the draft report should be released and the agency did not have a proper basis for its decision to rely on s 29 (1) (a) to refuse the request.

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