Unionized Employees

In addition to the rights granted by the applicable privacy law, if you are a unionized employee, you can also rely on the collective agreement that governs your employment and which may have some provisions relating to privacy. In addition, a large part of modern workplace privacy requirements arise from decisions by labour arbitrators and judges in cases involving unionized employees.

Generally speaking, courts and labour arbitrators look to balance the rights and interests of the employer and the employee. Any decision to protect an employee’s privacy will be based in large part on the sensitivity of the personal information at issue – the more sensitive the information, the more security and protection will be required, but the rights of the employer in the particular circumstances will also be taken into account.

If you are a unionized employee and you have a concern about your privacy being invaded in the workplace, take a look at your company’s privacy policy or other relevant policies (e.g., your employer may have policies relating to computer use, surveillance, drug testing, etc.) to see if your concern is addressed or explained in the policies, and then consult your union representative.

Non-Unionized Employees

Non-unionized employees cannot depend on any additional requirements contained in a collective agreement or in legal decisions related to the unionized workforce. However, applicable privacy laws now in force provide many similar types of protections, and they apply to every employer in BC. In addition, sometimes an employment agreement may contain specific privacy provisions. Most often, the employer relies on its privacy policy and any other policies (e.g., your employer may have policies relating to computer use, surveillance, drug testing, etc.), which should be developed to follow privacy law. Finally, although the decisions of labour arbitrators do not apply to non-union workplaces, employers may be guided by the same principles.