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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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My line manager gave my personal information to a third party

Resolved Question:

My line manager gave my personal information to a third party despite my explicit objection - what law has he broken? I felt this was part of a bullying process. What redress do I have?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today.

Ben Jones :

What information was disclosed?

Customer:

I work for Cambridge University as an examiner - my contract specifies that this must not be used by by employer to advertise their language school in any way - my status as an examiner is confidential. I stated clearly that the information was confidential but my line manager said he would give the information (to an outside body that inspects the school) despite my protestations

Ben Jones :

And what is the specific information that was disclosed - the fact you are an examiner?

Customer:

Yes - my contract is very strongly worded - examiners don't even let their status be known at meetings involving non-examiners.

Ben Jones :

How would this affect you?

Customer:

I would be in breach of my contract with Cambridge. I felt teh purpose of this disclosure (which was not requested) was to bully me.

Ben Jones :

How long have you worked there for?

Customer:

about 30 years - there have been bullying incidents in the past and these have become aggravated since a new line manager was employed

Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please

Ben Jones :

Any information which is personal about you, i.e. it is information from which you can be identified, will be protected under data protection regulation. Therefore, if a party has acted in contravention of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), then anyone who has suffered damage or distress as a result can potentially make a claim.


 


The first step is to report the alleged contravention to the Information Commissioner’s Office. They are the regulatory body that deals with breaches of data protection regulations and can investigate and fine the infringing party. However they will not award compensation to the victim so the only way to try and get any compensation is by going through court.


 


If the victim has only suffered distress and no financial damages, compensation is not available unless the breach related to the “special purposes” which means it was related to the processing of artistic, literary or journalistic information. Any other breaches will not qualify.


 


If there have been financial losses as a result of the breach, then the case could be taken to court. I would not recommend that this is done straight away and suggest trying to reach some kind of compromise with the violating party. However, if that is not possible and court appears to be the only recourse then this leaflet contains useful information on how take a claim for data protection breaches to court:


 


http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/data_protection/practical_application/taking_a_case_to_court.pdf


 


Remember that court should be used as a last resort and if all other attempts to try and resolve this have failed.


 


Internally, if you believe this is also part of a bullying process, you can pursue this with the employer. Under law, specifically the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. In addition, they have the implied contractual duty to provide a safe and suitable working environment. That includes preventing, or at least effectively dealing with bullying behaviour occurring in the workplace.


 


In terms of what the victim of bullying can do to try and deal with such problems, the following steps are recommended:


 



  1. First of all, and if appropriate, the employee should try and resolve the issue informally with the person responsible for the bullying.

  2. If the above does not work or is not a viable option, the employee should consider raising a formal grievance with the employer by following the company's grievance policy. This formally brings the bullying issue to the attention of the employer and they will have a duty to investigate and deal with it.

  3. If, following a grievance, the employer fails to take any action or the action they take is inappropriate, the employee would need to seriously consider their next steps. Unfortunately, employment law does not allow employees to make a direct claim about bullying. As such, the most common way of claiming for bullying is by resigning first and then submitting a claim for constructive dismissal in an employment tribunal (subject to having at least 2 years' continuous service with the employer). The reason for resigning would be to claim that by failing to act appropriately, the employer has breached the implied terms of mutual trust and confidence and failed to provide a safe working environment and that there was no other option but to resign. However, this step should only be used as a last resort as it can be risky, after all it will result in the employment being terminated.


 


In general, a victim should try and gather as much evidence as possible before considering making a formal complaint and certainly before going down the resignation route. As bullying often takes verbal form, the best way is to keep a detailed diary of all bullying occasions so that there is at least some reference in written form that the employer and/or the tribunal can refer to.


 

Customer:

Thank you - can you detail the schedules in the legislation you refer to - they are big documents.

Customer:

Thank you - can you detail the schedules/paragraphs that apply to my case in the two Acts you mention - they are big documents.

Ben Jones :

There is not just one line or section in the Acts that you can refer to , it is scattered around but you do not need to concern yourself with the specific sections as this is not something you are required to do, at this stage it is the general principles and the Acts as a whole that you need to mention

Customer:

Thank you - that is probably as far as we're going to get. I'm clicking on the smiley face but nothing's happening . . .

Ben Jones :

Ah sorry, should be enabled now

Ben Jones :

All the best

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