In a decision that may cause concern to Ontario municipalities,
Ontario's privacy commissioner has ordered the City of
Woodstock to turn over, to a private citizen, a workplace violence
and harassment reporting form written by a City employee. The form
related to an incident that involved the private citizen, referred
to him by name, and contained information about his personal
opinions. The citizen filed a request for the form under
Ontario's Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection
of Privacy Act.
The privacy commissioner also ordered the City to give the
citizen e-mail correspondence relating to the incident.
According to the decision, the workplace violence reporting form
and e-mail correspondence provide a "narrative of the
incident" along with the employee's "recommendation
about the suggested course of action".
The City objected to providing the documents to the citizen,
arguing that the Act allows municipalities to refuse to turn over
documents relating to "Meetings, consultations, discussions or
communications about labour relations or employment related matters
in which the institution has an interest". The City argued
that a workplace violence reporting form clearly is in respect of
"employment related matters", particularly because under
the Bill 168 amendments to Ontario's Occupational Health
and Safety Act, the City "has a legal obligation . . . to
ensure that its employees are not subject to violence and
harassment in the workplace".
The privacy commissioner rejected that argument, deciding that
the documents did not relate to employment matters between the City
and its employees, but rather related to employee observations
about the private citizen who was not an employee of the City.
The privacy commissioner decided that the City was not required
to give to the citizen the portions of the documents containing a
description of how the incident personally impacted the employee
who filed the workplace violence reporting form.
Municipalities will want to take this decision into account when
designing their workplace violence reporting form and process.
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