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What to Do If Your Privacy is Invaded at Work

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 25 Sep 2020 | comments*Discuss
Privacy Work Invade Information

If your privacy is invaded at work, there are two possible culprits. The first is the company itself, which may have compromised your privacy by asking for inappropriate information or by not handling your data safely and confidentially. The second possibility is that an individual in the workplace has invaded your privacy personally. Let us look at these two scenarios in turn.

Your Company

It is quite possible that your employer does not respect your privacy as much as you do. Perhaps personal information that is not directly relevant to the employer-employee relationship is kept on your personnel file. This slack attitude toward privacy issues makes it likely that some sort of breach will take place.

Remember that your employer has a duty under the Data Protection Act to ask you only for those details that it needs in order to employ you, and to restrict its use of such details to this use. If you think you are being asked to provide data that is not relevant, then you have the right to withhold it.

Similarly, if you believe that access to personnel files is not being controlled strictly enough, you have cause for complaint.

Your Colleagues

Sometimes colleagues may invade your privacy by accident. If you are discussing personal matters on your work phone, you can hardly complain if a colleague overhears what you say. Similarly, if you leave confidential documents lying face-up on your desk, you should not be surprised if someone happens to glance at them. You must take some responsibility for safeguarding your own privacy.

However, suppose you discover that a colleague has accessed your personnel record inappropriately. There may be any number of people in your organisation that you are particularly keen to keep certain information from: the colleague who has always had a bit of a crush on you, the disgruntled subordinate who was expecting the promotion you got instead, and the security guard who you suspect may be a petty thief.

You should certainly make a formal complaint if you believe your details have been accessed for illegitimate reasons. This may result in procedures being tightened up, and perhaps some form of disciplinary action being taken against the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, once your information has been leaked in this way, there is not much you can do to protect it. You could move house, change your phone number and get a new bank account, for example, but none of these things is worth the effort unless you have cause to fear for your safety. If that is the case, you have more to worry about and you may be wiser to contact the police.

Taking Action

If someone has compromised your privacy at work, the action you should take depends on the severity of the breach. For a minor infraction, it may be sufficient to discuss the matter with the perpetrator and ask them not to do the same again in future.

If the invasion is somewhat more serious, such as someone requesting access to your personnel file without a legitimate need for it, then you may wish to complain to the snooper’s manager. By escalating the problem in this way, you may be able to ensure that the perpetrator does not reoffend, and you have the opportunity to request that the company tightens up its security so that similar breaches become less likely in the future.

As a last resort, you may need to contact the police. If you believe that your privacy has been invaded with criminal intent then this could be a wise course of action, since, even if it does not result in a prosecution, it will send a strong signal that you are aware of what has taken place and you are prepared to defend yourself.

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10 yrs ago. I went from full time to term time employment . i've been with my local government employer for 18 years.its come to like. 10 years ago they dint put me on the right pay scale. so now i owe them 24k.which they want back. I had a issue at work about a promotion.. an email was sent to me regarding this issue, along with. its come to like that youve been overpaid in your job. though your pay has now been adjusted, outstanding money is owed. this was CC'd to 5 other people.. My manager, their manager, HR advisor( i agree Head of payroll neededthe info...along with head of HR which is who was dealing with my issue. I feel embarrassed now others know. do the others really need to know, its not as if they could help of assist me in sorting this out. I feel my private and confidential information has been breeched.
busylikeme - 25-Sep-20 @ 4:15 PM
I recently had to re-locate to another state due to being stalked...I haven’t told anyone here But my manager and she sent an email to our team with my home address on it. Is there a way I could sue due to this? I had a history with this problem In my previous city and even had my corporate security involved.
Sharon - 23-Sep-20 @ 12:41 AM
I have found out I’m pregnant. I’ve been with the company for two years and everyone is great, my assistant manager is not a popular figure within our workplace but is nothing more than a little irritating at best ?? . I’ve had a risk assessment done by my manager who has had to tell the assistant manager. I’ve asked for nothing to be said as I haven’t told my youngest child and some family menebers due to miscarriage before. I’ve found out she has been telling everyone and gossiping knowing I’ve asked her to keep quiet until I’ve reached my 12 weeks. What can I do if anything in this situation.
Rubes - 19-Aug-20 @ 4:18 PM
I started a new job and after 3 days I had to stop and shield for 4 months due to my medical condition. The only people who I told about my condition where my manager and HR as they had to receive copies of my nhs letters. 2 days into my return to work a co worker I had just recently met asked me how I was coping with my condition. I was surprised as to how she knew about it and I was upset because I realised someone must have told people about it. I’m not sure what to do but I feel like my privacy has been violated. I thought that was my personal information and to be shared on a need to know basis and I don’t think my coworkers needed to know. Some of my friends and family don’t even know I have this condition why should I tell people who are still strangers to me
Mmafox - 15-Aug-20 @ 1:43 AM
I am a manager, I keep notes from one to one meetings with staff and some personal data of my in a notebook. On my day off this notebook was on my desk closed, a member of staff opened and read it and then proceeded to put the notebook under her coat and shared it with 3 other members of staff (all caught on CCTV) I am now being accused of Gross Misconduct, which wouldn't occur if this member of staff hadn't snooped through this notebook and physically shared it.... I admit I normally lock it away but it was in my office space!! First offence on an impeccable staff record sheet
Reg - 7-Aug-20 @ 7:12 AM
I had a personal conversation with someone not related to work in my own time at home about an employee.Now my company are using it against me, can they do this?
jay - 5-Aug-20 @ 5:36 PM
A coworker has printed and posted in her work desk photos taken approx 5 years ago,, of us without my consent. Is it ilegal? I have every right to request her to take photos down.
Light - 6-Jul-20 @ 8:24 AM
My deputy manager discussed how pissed off she was with me for ringing in sick due to the stress of one of my seniors and I having a disagreement. She told the staff about what had happened even though it was not on their shift. She then rang me at home and said I had to come to work, which she has done a few times when I have rung in sick. Would just like some advice please.
Deedee - 30-Jun-20 @ 12:11 AM
My supervisor disclosed that I was pregnant to my boss without my permission when I specifically told her “NO ONE else knows and I want it to stay that way”. She also said it in front of two other employees and a daughter of an employee.
abcdefg - 26-Jun-20 @ 12:10 AM
My daughter's boss has accessed her private messenger by logging in her FB account and using her saved password without telling her during furlough. The message was derogatory about her boss and were written out of hours on her own device, yet her boss has now started Gross Misconduct proceedings. The boss is mentioned only by her first name, and the name of the company is not mentioned. It was addressed to her own brother. We know the boss clicked on at least one other my daughter's friend. We feel it is an invasion of privacy and abuse of from the boss. She applied for a job, got it and informed her boss she was leaving. The GM proceeding were started AFTER she informed the boss of her new job. Does an employer have such a right as it was out of hours, at home, on her own laptop?
maz - 20-Jun-20 @ 3:58 PM
My boss had me send an email to our district manager because my boyfriend(I’m gay) had been tested for covid 19 my coworkers no I’m gay but I still have family that does not and before this I’m pretty sure my dm did not know so I send the email and it was then forwarded to the entire district this is a breach of my security and I’m not just over reacting right??
J210 - 15-May-20 @ 6:17 PM
My MD printed all the staffs (from the cleaner to him and everyone in-between) full names, personal emails, personal mobile numbers and home addresses which were the distributed one each to all the staff "incase of emergency". He only panicked and took them back after a family member who works for the company realised what he was doing when I told them
James - 8-Apr-20 @ 7:37 PM
A letter containing personal information about myself was used as a template letter to send a similar letter to another colleague. However, some information was left in the second letter, identifying me as having the same issues as my colleague. This was information I made clear I did not want discussing with any of my colleagues. I did no event tell my closest friend in the workplace of my personal issue. However, the colleague who received the second letter approached me with her letter telling me what had happened.
Lily123 - 16-Feb-20 @ 7:11 AM
My boss opened my office drawer and overhead cabinets and took pictures then send them to one of my colleagues to show his (Boss's)office space was cleaner than mine. Does this amount to breach of privacy.
FA - 29-Jan-20 @ 10:42 AM
2 co-workers looked at my personal files without my authorization and others files. They then told people of the others background check.
Concerned - 27-Jan-20 @ 9:39 PM
I was off sick for stress at work for 3 months. During this time, my management accessed my personal locker with a duplicate key. I was not notified of this, I only found out when I returned to work. My belongings are now missing and the manager is not taking responsibility stating that my items were not in there. Is this a breach of my privacy rights? I had private paper work in the locker. What can I do?
Tre - 25-Jan-20 @ 4:35 AM
My Assistant Manager regularly tries to overide rotas set by Management and the changes are always directed at me rather than other members of staff.I am a student and recently asked to be allowed to work in the branch near my house some 300 miles away from my university and current work location which is something that many do as the company are Nationwide.However my request has been rejected and I have been told I would have to move location or quit.This holiday I worked a few days and have just been called to advise by another Manager that the rota has been change without my knowledge and I will be in another location.On contating the organisation I was advised by the Assistant Manager that the Manager at the other location was trying to get hold of me.I advised I did not get a call and also I do not know this Manager.My question is, can your contact details be shared amongst the whole organisation for purposes to do with work rotas in different locations or should there be consent and agreement prior from the employee before this is shared?
Star - 29-Dec-19 @ 6:01 PM
My partner works as an engineer in a local factory. At the end of the year each employee is given a bonus depending on their sickness, punctuality etc. He has just told me that the management put up a notice for all to see stating how much sickness each employee has had over that 12 month period. I work in healthcare and this would never happen! Is his employer in breach of privacy right? Thanks in advance
Deetee - 12-Dec-19 @ 6:53 PM
I have had an incident at work where a Rifle was pointed at me and it shook me up badly and was off sick for a while. One of the persons access the managers Mobile phone and gained my personal mobile number to contact me without any ones permission. I put a grievance in and this part of it was accepted i have since left under the circumstances could i claim for the GDPR breach?
SKJ23 - 6-Dec-19 @ 4:21 PM
I had a co worker make my life hell out of work. When I quit her son came to my house to beat me up. While saying my mums seen all the messages you sent work about her. I’m not sure how to proceed?
Daver - 1-Dec-19 @ 2:25 AM
What if your company is following disciplinary action against an employee over private messages using personal phones outside of work?
Kriss - 14-Nov-19 @ 1:28 PM
Center Parcs have just sent to staff a file containing the personal details for ALL employees. The file contains - name, address, national ins number, bank details and salary!
Tightlines - 2-Nov-19 @ 10:22 AM
I have been of work for 6 weeks as my arm was broken and I have had a operation this was due to domestic violent, my boss has told other employees about this and people that do not work for the company to and since I’ve been back to work has made me feel bad for having the time of even though I have been signed if, also on my sick note going back it said I should be phased into work but she has not honoured this
Amyy - 27-Oct-19 @ 9:48 PM
My assistant came to me in confidence to inform me that my Manager has been searching though my families Social Media to basically look at the photos of the female members. I feel like this is inappropriate but I’m not sure If there’s any actual breach to Confidentiality or if it’s just inappropriate , I have reported this to another manager but the don’t think anything can be done.. any suggestions?
Woodys - 23-Oct-19 @ 5:09 PM
My address has been obtain from work and used to send a distressing Funky Pigeon card, can I log a grievance at work ?
Bev - 15-Oct-19 @ 8:53 PM
Hi, my boss allows his partner (not an employee of the company) to go through the company files which include HR files, bank statements, financial documents etc.She has even had keys cut to all the cabinets. Is this allowed?
Fruit Tree - 12-Sep-19 @ 4:47 PM
I suspect a colleague of mine has looked at my medical records via the hospital records which we can access due to our job role. She has done this and found out about my recent surgery! How do I prove this ? And who can I report it too ?
Bam1 - 9-Aug-19 @ 7:38 PM
My employer sent me a email telling me the EDD will garnish my check and in the email there was an attachment when I open the attachment it belonged to another employee and had the notice EDD sent my employer with this employee personal info and SSN.When I told my employer about this they said sorry for the confusion and then they sent me my notice from the EDD. So my concern now is what if my employer sent my information to the wrong person.This has caused so much stress and I already have trust issues.What can I do about this?And can I be compensated for all the stress and discomfort this has caused me. And I feel my information is not safe with them. I told my friend about this and sarcastically he said poor guy are you going to sign up for credit cards with his ssn. This maybe was meant as a joke but I feel my reputation is being affected.Please tell me if I have a case here and any advice would be helpful
Virgo - 23-Jul-19 @ 7:54 PM
Hi, I keep notes on a personal notebook which I keep in my handbag. My handbag is in another room behind my workstation and I'm pretty sure someone has been in there and been through my notes. The notes are mainly about incidents at work. I'm a former union repand always advise people to keep notes about what is going on, especially if they intend to report things. My question is, what can I do about this and what can the person do with the info gleened from my notebook? Everything in the book is factual so not worried about that. Appreciate any advice you could give. Regards, Louise
LDiva - 19-Jul-19 @ 11:31 AM
My wife was absent from work with a personal illness and her acting line manager put details of the condition my wife was suffering with on the online staff shift rota, that was accessible and visible to all her colleagues at her place of work causing distress and embarrassment . Is this a data protection breach and what should she do ?
SeanP - 9-Jul-19 @ 8:28 PM
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