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Employee accuses company of denying access request

PIPEDA Case Summary #2003-136

[Principle 4.9; sections 8(1) and 8(3)]

Complaint

An employee of a telecommunications company complained that his employer denied him access to his personal information, specifically, his pay stubs, T-4 slip and a form needed to complete his application for benefits coverage.

Summary of Investigation

The complainant had been on sick leave for several months. Approximately six months into his leave, he asked his union to obtain his mail from his employer, but he did not inform his employer of this arrangement.

The complainant's managers indicated that, whenever mail had been deposited in the complainant's mailbox, they would forward it to his home address. The complainant moved residences during his leave and did not initially inform his employer of his change of address. Consequently, some of his mail was returned to the employer, but was reissued once it became aware of his new address.

On March 14, 2002, the complainant wrote to his employer and requested his T-4 slip, which he received eight days later.

The complainant did not request his pay stubs in writing although he did eventually receive them. The employer indicated that it would provide him with a copy of any other information pertaining to him, provided he make his request in writing.

Commissioner's Findings

Issued March 6, 2003

Jurisdiction: As of January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (the Act) applies to any federal work, undertaking, or business. The Commissioner had jurisdiction in this case because a telecommunications company is a federal work, undertaking, or business as defined in the Act.

Application: Section 2 defines personal information to be "...information about an identifiable individual...". Principle 4.9 states that upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information. Section 8(1) modifies Principle 4.9, by stipulating that such a request must be made in writing. Section 8(3) states that an organization shall respond to a request with due diligence and in any case not later than thirty days after receipt of the request.

The Commissioner first determined that application form requested by the complainant was a standard blank application form from the company's insurance carrier. As it did not name him or otherwise identify him as an individual, it did not fall under the section 2 definition of personal information.

The Commissioner then determined that, with respect to the T-4 slip, the company provided the complainant with this information eight days after he sent his written request - well within the 30-day timeframe set out in the Act. He further determined that, although the complainant did not make his other requests in writing to the company, it nevertheless forwarded to him the information to which he was entitled.

In sum, the Commissioner was satisfied that, when requested in writing, the company responded promptly and provided the complainant with the information he was seeking, thus meeting its obligations under section 8(3) and complying with Principle 4.9.

He concluded that the complaint was not well-founded.

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