Complainant AH v The Department

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					case note 2007 VPrivCmr 3

                                                                                                           Case note

                                                Complainant AH v The Department
                                                       [2007] VPrivCmr 3

                            Disclosure of personal information (IPP2) – allegation that the Department disclosed
                            personal information unrelated to an investigation being undertaken. Data security
                            (IPP4) – allegation that the Department failed to take reasonable steps to secure the
                            personal information from unauthorised disclosure.

                            The Complaint

                            The Complainant lived in a small country town and had been employed with the
                            Department with many years of exemplary service. He became ill and was obliged to
                            take leave from work. Shortly before commencing leave, an allegation was made
                            against the Complainant that he had inappropriately used a departmental vehicle.

                            In investigating the allegation, the Department’s representative visited the small
                            country town and stayed with a friend who had also worked with the Department. At
                            dinner with other local people, it was alleged that the Department’s representative
                            disclosed details about the purpose of his visit, namely to investigate a serving staff
                            member currently on sick leave. Although the Complainant’s name was not
                            specifically mentioned, the Complainant believed that enough information was
                            disclosed (within the small rural community) to enable his identity to be reasonably
                            ascertained and therefore amounted to a disclosure of the Complainant’s personal
                            information. The Complainant also believed that by disclosing information about him,
                            the Department failed to take adequate steps to secure his personal information from
                            misuse and loss, unauthorised access, or disclosure.

                            The complaint was referred to conciliation where the Department acknowledged that
                            information discussed by its representative could have amounted to a disclosure of
                            personal information in the particular context. The Department further acknowledged
                            the Complainant’s exemplary employment history, lack of substance to the allegations
                            made about him, and feelings of humiliation, embarrassment and hurt as a result of its
                            representative’s disclosure.

                            To resolve the matter, the Complainant sought both an amount of compensation and
                            to have his reputation restored within his small rural community.
The complaint was conciliated on the following terms:

   •   Compensation of $5,000 plus an additional $400 for expenses incurred in
       making the complaint and attending the conciliation meeting;
   •   The Department hosting an event with media presence in the Complainant’s
       town to publicly acknowledge his exemplary employment history;
   •   The Complainant to be presented with a Certificate of Service at the event.


The conciliation agreement demonstrates the effectiveness of non-financial outcomes
to redress the complainant’s feelings of embarrassment and humiliation.

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Description: Complainant AH v The Department