Can my employer publish personal information about me?

My employer is doing quarterly highlights of its manager team. Can they legally do an article that includes information about my personal life and distribute it to everyone internally and submit it to the local newspaper for publication?

Rita Risser replies:

From an employee morale perspective, an employer should get your permission before it publishes or submits any article about you. Any managers or HR people reading this, take note that publishing information about an employee without their consent is not a good practice.

From a legal perspective, however, the answer is it depends. If the information about you is not private, the employer can publish it. What you think is private may be different from how it is seen by the law. These are generally not considered private because anyone can see them: your height, build, race, color of hair, age, home address, kind of car you drive, exercise classes you take, and so on. Legally private information includes date of birth, Social Security Number, medical conditions, and specific physical and mental disabilities. As to this last, however, if you use a wheelchair and the employer published that fact, that would not be an invasion of privacy as, again, anyone can see that.

For more specific information about the facts in your particular situation, contact a local employment lawyer.

Posted 07-12-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.