Home Featured NL Hydro ordered to release data on employees who self-identify as having disabilities by privacy commissioner

NL Hydro ordered to release data on employees who self-identify as having disabilities by privacy commissioner

by HR Law Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (NL Hydro) has been directed to provide records concerning its employees who self-identify as having disabilities following a decision by the province’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Michael Harvey.

The ruling comes after a complaint was lodged regarding NL Hydro’s failure to disclose all requested information under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015 (ATIPPA, 2015).

On April 28, 2023, an individual requested details on NL Hydro’s employment equity plan and statistics about its workforce, specifically regarding employees with disabilities. NL Hydro initially released only a single page related to its equity plan, omitting detailed employee data.

Subsequently, the complainant noticed references to a self-identification survey in the company’s 2024-2026 Accessibility Plan, which led to the formal complaint when the company refused to release further details.

NL Hydro says request was a ‘new record’

NL Hydro defended its decision by arguing that the data was not only inaccurate but also that compiling this information would constitute the creation of a new record, which it claimed was not mandated by ATIPPA. The utility also suggested that releasing the information could infringe on privacy rights under section 40 of the Act.

“While NL Hydro is correct that it is not required to create new records or interpret the survey results it has received, it clearly has records that are responsive to this request,” the Commissioner said. “That the records may be incomplete or inaccurate owing to the survey being voluntary and based on self-identification does not change the conclusion that, from the description of the records provided to our Office, they are responsive to the Complainant’s request for data about ‘self identified persons with disabilities.'”

Commissioner Harvey’s investigation refuted these claims, stating, “NL Hydro did not meet its burden of proof to deny access and recommended it search for and provide the requested information within 10 business days, subject to any applicable exceptions.” He highlighted that mere inaccuracy of data is not a valid ground for refusal under the legislation.

The report emphasized that “The head of a public body shall make every reasonable effort to assist an applicant…to respond without delay to an applicant in an open, accurate and complete manner,” as stipulated in section 13 of ATIPPA, 2015.

Necessary exceptions allowed

NL Hydro has been advised to undertake a thorough search for the responsive records and provide them, applying any necessary exceptions. This decision underscores the importance of transparency and accountability in public bodies while handling access to information requests.

This case marks a significant affirmation of the rights of individuals to access information regarding public bodies, reinforcing the principles of transparency mandated by Newfoundland and Labrador’s information access laws.

For more information, see Report A-2024-016.

You may also like

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.