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Saskatchewan WCB "Breach of Privacy"

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Author: Thomas Brown

Published: September 4th, 2007  

 

(Please note that my website provider is solely responsible for the banner, and pop-up ads on this site. While annoying, rest assured there are no viruses or spyware attached to these.)

 

As some may already know, the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner (right) has filed a precedent-setting report regarding the Workers’ Compensation Board in Saskatchewan. The report filed on March 28, 2007, details several instances where WCB clearly violated the privacy of a claimant.

 

I urge injured workers to carefully consider the following information, as these same privacy breaches have occurred for years, and claimants can seek damages with respects to them.

 

In the abovementioned report, the Privacy Commissioner noted that in the course of reviewing the injured worker’s claim, WCB collected personal financial and health information pertaining to the claimant. In its written correspondences to the claimant, many of which were copied to the employer, the Commissioner found WCB had specified this private information. In another instance the Commissioner noted the claimant had requested file copies of this private information, which WCB subsequently sent by regular mail. Ultimately the Commissioner learned these copies were neither received by the claimant, nor returned to WCB.

 

While there are other concerns raised in this report, the aforementioned are the central “Breach of Privacy” issues. Consequently the Commissioner concluded that disclosure of the claimant’s financial and health information to the employer, contravenes The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP), as well as The Health Information Protection Act (HIPA). Pursuant to these Acts he also concluded that WCB had failed to safeguard this private information, by using regular mail to send file copies to the claimant.

 

To the layperson, the Commissioner’s report could appear to be nothing more than a slap on WCB's wrist, and little could ever come of it. My purpose in creating this website is to advise injured workers that nothing could be further from the truth. I firmly believe there are countless privacy breaches of this nature in all WCB jurisdictions, and a claimant has the right to file a lawsuit in this regard. You will not, however, find any information pertaining to such litigation in the aforementioned report. Put simply, the Commissioner  is not at liberty to comment or advise on such proceedings.

 

It’s important for injured workers to know that both FOIP and HIPA are legislated; that is to say these Acts are law. While I’m painfully aware that The Workers’ Compensation Act  (WCA) is also legislated, and these laws are all too often broke by WCB without repercussion, this is the end result of the Board having "exclusive jurisdiction" over the WCA. Please be advised however that the Board’s jurisdiction does not extend to FOIP or HIPA, nor does it in anyway protect WCB from litigation involving the contravention of these laws.

 

The fact of the matter is that WCB falls under the jurisdiction of the Privacy Commissioner. During my conversations with his office regarding my own breach of privacy complaint, I’ve learned that a number of his recommendations have been accepted by WCB, and policies have changed to reflect these. While there should be little doubt that some, if not most recommendations were accepted as “damage control”, this will in no way protect WCB from lawsuits involving privacy breaches that have already occurred.

 

I would also like to advise injured workers of the following; under the heading “Offence to divulge information under Act”, section 171 of The Workers’ Compensation Act states:

 

(1) Subject to sections 171.1 and 171.2, no officer of the board and no person authorized to make an inspection or inquiry under this Act shall divulge or allow to be divulged, except in the performance of his duties or under the authority of the board, any information obtained by him or that has come to his knowledge in connection with that inspection or inquiry.

(2) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

1979, c.W-17.1, s.171; 1984-85-86, c.89, s.29; 1993, c.63, s.46.

 

Clearly not only has WCB been in violation of FOIP and HIPA, it has also contravened its own privacy legislation. Given its track record in adhering to other sections of its Act, it’s unlikely there have been any consequences to WCB personnel in this particular instance. I for one however am pursuing these charges/fines, and I encourage other claimants with privacy complaints to follow suit.

 

The final issue I want to raise is also part and parcel to the creation of this website:

 

“Is WCB responsible for advising its stakeholders and claimants of privacy violations?”

 

To address this issue I would remind readers of a privacy-related incident that occurred several years ago. In January of 2003, a computer hard drive containing the private information of more than one million individuals inexplicably went missing. Among those individuals were some 4600 WCB claimants, and according to a Financial Post article, WCB “leaped into action” and notified these claimants of a possible violation of their privacy. 

 

It occurs to me that in the aforementioned incident, WCB did exactly what one would expect it to do. This being said, despite that the Privacy Commissioner’s current report pertains to bona fide violations of a claimant’s privacy, and that the same violations have unquestionably occurred in countless claims, WCB has not spoken a word about this publicly, much less informed its stakeholders and claimants. If up to this point readers had any doubt as to the legitimacy or value of a lawsuit in this regard, the Board’s response (or rather lack of one) should put this doubt to rest.

 

Like many injured workers, this is the sort of cover-up I’ve come to expect from WCB. However, considering that the Privacy Commissioner reports directly to the Saskatchewan government, it’s clear to me that this cover-up goes well beyond WCB. Subsequently individuals may want to raise this issue with their MLA, or the Opposition Party.

 

One final note with respects to the 2003 incident; as reported in a Globe & Mail article, the Saskatchewan government also had significant information on that missing hard drive. Furthermore it was considering suing the company responsible for safeguarding that information. While I have no knowledge as to whether this occurred, you can bet that such a lawsuit was also considered by WCB, if not pursued.

 

Please note that this website is in its infancy, and that additional information regarding legal proceedings, legal advice, etc., will be posted in the near future. In the meantime I urge injured workers to consider the procedures I’ve outlined for you here.

 

In closing, it’s my sincere hope that the preceding information will be useful to injured workers and their families. For information regarding other WCB issues/practices, visit Appealing the SK WCB.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to respond to them.

 

Best of luck in any future endeavours you may have with WCB.

 

 

Regards,

 

Tom Brown
____________________
Injured worker/advocate

 

 

Important Notices:

 

 

January 26th, 2008 - While inquiring into information missing from my WCB file, I discovered several other serious privacy violations. As evidenced here, injured workers are not the only individuals whose privacy is breached by WCB.

 

Update - January 24th, 2009 - Over the past year I’ve written and/or copied 28 letters to the Saskatchewan government regarding these privacy violations. To date, 26 of these have gone unanswered.

 

In light of this I’ve recently published another website. On this site you’ll find all manner of correspondence, along with additional evidence confirming the cover-up of these privacy violations.

 

Readers will find this new website here.

 

 

All My Websites:

 

“WCB: Your Right To Sue” – Click here

 

“Saskatchewan WCB Breach Of Privacy” – Click here 

 

“The Saskatchewan Party: Broken Promises & Cover-ups” – Click here 

 

"Appealing the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board" – Click here  

 

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