What Important Things Should an HR Worker Understand About Employee Privacy?

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Part of working in the field of human resources is protecting employees and keeping their personal information safe. A lot of information about an employee is at your fingertips when you are in HR. This can include tax information, contact information, data related to healthcare and any past history within the company–good and bad. Likely, when you were studying in college to work in this field, you learned all about the duties you would perform and the kind of information that you would gather. It is important to learn all about employee privacy and what your responsibilities are. You could get yourself into some pretty legitimate trouble if you let certain facts slip to other employees or to the public. Let’s take a close look at what some of the important things are that an HR worker should understand about employee privacy.

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Personal Information

There are laws that protect employee information but this is typically only applicable to government agencies. In a private establishment, it is not against the law to release information to someone other than the included party, but it is in good faith that you don’t do so. This would put you in a bad light as an employee and could put you into a position of getting fired. You are expected to keep all information confidential unless directed otherwise by management. You cannot release information like social security numbers, salary numbers, etc.

What About Job References?

There are situations when human resources will be called upon to give a reference for someone who currently works at a company or has recently left. This information can help that person get another job, but there is information that should not be leaked. You can absolutely communicate regarding the overall performance of an employee but other information should never be passed out like social security information, work schedule, rate of pay or address. Keeping it general is important.


Depending on the size of a company, there might be security cameras on site to help protect everyone in the building. A private entity has the right to do this, however, it is not allowed for cameras to be in personal spaces like a locker room or a bathroom.

Drug Testing

Many companies require employees to pass a drug test before they can begin working. This is the right of the private company to conduct these tests and they take on the financial responsibility of doing so. The results of the information cannot be released, however. These tests can be repeated with no warning, at the discretion of human resources and management.

On occasion, there will be an employee that is concerned about their privacy rights. It is a good idea for companies to have their privacy policy in writing to hand out to employees if need be. Working in HR is a big responsibility, and it is ideal to protect the personal information of employees in order to manage a safe and pleasant work environment. In order to make all of this happen, it is important to understand up front what is expected of you as a professional.

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