Employees allege refused access to results of job competition

PIPEDA Case Summary #2002-87


Two individuals complained that their employer, an airport authority, had refused them access to their personal information, specifically the results of a job competition they had tried.

Summary of Investigation

Both complainants had competed unsuccessfully for the same position with the airport. Each subsequently wrote to the airport to request a complete copy of the contents of his personnel file, specifying that his evaluations for the position in question should be included. When they still had received no response after several weeks, they each filed a complaint with the Commissioner's Office.

The airport sought guidance from the Office on how best to comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. After several discussions and exchanges of correspondence, the airport agreed to take the following steps:

  • It would place in an employee's file a copy of the ranking and score obtained in a competition.
  • It would maintain, for a period of six months, a competition file containing all of the information on unsuccessful candidates, to be accessible by them in accordance with the Act.

More than five months after the original access requests, the airport finally allowed the complainants to examine their personal information relating to their candidacies in the competition. The airport took the view that it would allow unsuccessful candidates to review the questions and their answers to any multiple-choice questionnaire used in the assessment process. However, the individuals would not be given a copy of the questionnaire itself. Likewise, it would give access to answers and scores for questions posed in interviews where the candidate's responses were recorded. However, candidates would not be allowed to see the original questions.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner confirmed that the complainants were given access to this information, and arranged for them to receive photocopies of some of the documents.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued October 22, 2002

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act applies to any federal work, undertaking, or business. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because airport authorities are federal works, undertakings, or businesses as defined in the Act.

Application: Principle 4.9, Schedule 1; and sections 8(3) and 8(5).

The Commissioner determined that the airport had not provided the complainants with access to their personal information until well beyond the 30-day limit set out in the Act. He found therefore that the airport had clearly failed to meet its obligation under section 8(3) and was thus deemed under section 8(5) to have refused the complainants' access requests in contravention of Principle 4.9.

Nevertheless, he noted that the complainants had eventually obtained access to their requested information and had expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the case.

Accordingly, he concluded that the complaints were well-founded and resolved.

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