In Jones v. Tsige, the
Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed the existence of the tort of
"intrusion upon seclusion" based on invasion of an
individual's personal privacy. In its decision, the Court
ordered a bank employee, Winnie Tsige, to pay $10,000 in damages to
her colleague, Sandra Jones, for repeatedly accessing Jones'
private bank records. Damages were awarded despite the fact that
Tsige did not publish, distribute or record Jones' information
and Jones did not suffer any public embarrassment or harm to her
health, welfare or financial position as a result of Tsige's
breach. The decision is summarized in more detail on our technology and IP colleagues'
In short, the tort of intrusion upon seclusion is defined by the
Court of Appeal as an intentional or reckless invasion of the
private affairs or concerns of a person which would be viewed by a
reasonable person as highly offensive, resulting in distress,
humiliation or anguish. The Court explicitly stated that
individuals can have recourse under this tort in cases where their
privacy is invaded, even if they experience no economic loss.
The Court specifically listed "employment" as a
private matter that would qualify as highly offensive. Accordingly,
employers may be particularly vulnerable to claims of this nature
since employers routinely collect and store employment information
for extended periods. Employers would be well-advised to take
appropriate steps to ensure that employees' records are kept
secure and are not accessible to unauthorized persons. While in
this particular case the employer was not a defendant, now that
there is a recognized tort arising from invasion of privacy, it is
not difficult to see how this cause of action could be used as the
basis of a claim for damages against an employer.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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