Privacy Regulations and Employment Related Records

Tax Professionals' Resource
October 25, 2012 — 1,364 views  
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Privacy Regulations and Employment Related Records

For the sake of privacy and security, personal information concerning employees should be kept in a safe location and protected from prying eyes. Secrecy concerning personnel files and the proper storage of employee records is vitally important.

If, through phone calls or personal visits, information is sought concerning an employee, the initial and best response should be to not release any information. Whether the information being sought pertains to employment records, medical history or personal data, protection of an employee’s privacy is paramount.

Personnel rules and regulation should spell out plainly what, if any, information will be furnished to the public or private sector should questions arise. Law enforcement officers should provide warrants which describe specifically the information being sought. Officers of the court must provide identification prior to receiving any private information concerning an employee.

New employees should be informed of all rules governing dress codes, company expectations and rules of information restrictions prior to their first day on the job. Statements acknowledging receipt of such rules should be signed and become a permanent portion of the personnel files.

It is always best to appoint one person, or group of people depending on the size of the company, to give out any information requested on employees. That person or group should be intensively trained on the correct procedures.

HIPPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, establishes policies for privacy and security pertaining to health information and strictly prohibits the delineation of most medical information without permission.
Laws provide penalties for the dispensation of private information to unauthorized recipients. Even spouses should not be allowed to pick up payroll checks or be given payroll information unless permission from the employee has been granted.

Drug test results and employee write-ups or reprimands should remain in confidence. By the same token, home addresses and telephone numbers should not be divulged.

Persons who are no longer in your employee remain covered by your privacy rules. Information pertaining to their whereabouts, details of their work history or medical information should not be released. It is, however, acceptable to state that they were previously employed with your company and the dates involved. More detailed information should be restrained until such time as security protocols are followed.

The best procedure to follow when questions arise concerning employees is to refer the inquirer to the person or group that has this responsibility. This practice should eliminate information leaks and assure the consistency of action.


Tax Professionals' Resource