Giving out personal information

Thinking about human rights and applying human rights at work can be difficult. This hypothetical case study shows how human rights can apply in an everyday work situation. It gives insight into what you might need to consider when completing your own work.

David works in an administrative role where he has a lot of interaction with clients. Melinda comes into the office and asks for copies of documents that contain personal information about her mother. David has to decide whether to provide the documents or not.

He has to think about the internal policies and processes he should follow to make this decision, and he also has to think about human rights. 

David’s decision whether to provide Melinda the documents could affect Melinda’s human rights and her mother’s human rights.

Privacy and reputation

If Melinda is asking for documents that contain personal information about her mother and David provides them, this decision could interfere with her mother’s right to privacy. 

Freedom of expression

If Melinda is asking for documents that contain information she legitimately needs, and David doesn’t provide them, this decision could interfere with her right to freedom of expression.

Right to life and right to protection of families and children

If Melinda needs the documents because she is caring for her mother, David’s decision could limit the right to life or the right to protection of families and children. 

Everyone has the right to have their human rights protected without discrimination. When one person’s human rights need to be balanced against the rights of another person or group, the Human Rights Act 2019 shows us how to do this.

David needs to know what law, if any, supports his decision to limit a human right, and the steps he must complete to ensure his decision is fair and for good reason. 

What law lets David limit human rights?

David will have workplace procedures that help him respond to requests for information. The procedures he follows will come from laws about how people can access information, such as the Information Privacy Act 2009.

How does David make a fair decision?

The decision to provide documents could limit Melinda’s mother’s right to privacy and reputation. The purpose of limiting that right might be to help Melinda access information that she needs and should be allowed to have to care for her mother. David needs to make sure that limiting Melinda’s mother’s rights will achieve his purpose.

He also needs to make sure that limiting Melinda’s mother’s rights is the fairest and least restrictive way to protect Melinda’s rights.

How important it is for Melinda to have the documents? Is it important enough to outweigh the limitation on her mother’s right to privacy? 

Could he provide some of the documents but not others? If there are other realistic options that limit rights less, David should consider using one of those options.

After balancing the competing interests of the people involved, and weighing up all options for delivering on Melinda’s request, David needs to be confident he can show his final decision is the most fair and for good reason.