Can I keep employee contact information and work schedules confidential?

I manage a restaurant, and we consistently have to deal with relatives or friends calling and asking when someone works or if they are off work yet. I’ve tried to strictly enforce our confidentiality-privacy policy, which states that employee information is confidential (to non-employees), including contact information and schedules. Furthermore, we don’t allow employees to take personal calls on our business phone except in cases of emergency, so my standard response is, ‘I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to disclose that over the phone’ or simply to say that person is ‘not available.’ But I have had people become irate when I will not tell them if someone is at work, clocked in, etc. Is it legal for me to comply with their requests?

Rita Risser replies:

Since you have a confidentiality-privacy policy, you need to comply with it. You are doing the right thing. You may want to inform your employees about this situation and tell them to tell their friends and family not to call. Good luck!

Posted 01-12-2016

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.