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NSW Did I Breach Any Workplace Privacy Laws?

Discussion in 'Employment Law Forum' started by benhereford, 26 July 2016.

  1. benhereford

    benhereford Member

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    A couple of months ago, I was asked to help download footage of a theft from my workplace. The footage show a staff member looking at a scarf and then taking it, placing it around her neck and walking off. This occurred at night just after the shop closed and only her and another staff member were present.

    The other staff member confronted her about the scarf that night as they locked up the store but was told that the scarf was hers from home and she had owned it for a long time. It had been suspected by some staff members that this person had been stealing from the shop for some time but there was never any proof until this incident.

    A lot of money, shop items and drugs had gone missing (pharmacy). In all other incidences that a member of staff had been caught stealing or being dishonest (once before I worked there and once in the six years I worked there), the staff member was immidiately sacked. The staff member in question this time was a pharmacist. I was instructed by another employee not to say anything to anyone.

    I asked another pharmacist who worked with her at our store but was no longer an employee at the time I obtained the footage what she knew about the theft. The owner and store manager had a private meeting with the phamacist who commited the theft a couple of months after I pulled the footage for them. I do not know what was uncovered or what the result of the meeting was but after the meeting the pharmacist took a week off work before returning.

    Last Sunday I recieved a phone call from the pharmacy owner. She was very angry I had dicussed this with the pharmacist who no longer worked with us, threatened to sue me for defamation and sacked me immidiately. I am also banned from the store. I had already resigned a week earlier as I had been offered a great job elsewhere and was due to finish in another week anyway so the sacking doesn't worry me much anyway.

    I only discussed this incident with 3 employees (two current and the pharmacist who is now no longer employed at our store). Have I done anything wrong and have I breached any privacy laws or commited a defamation offence?
     
  2. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    Truth is a defence to defamation. As long as you have told the truth, and can prove it, you are OK.

    There is no general right to privacy in Australia so you are ok on that score.

    Sounds like a lot of bluster with no legal basis.

    You may have contravened company policy by talking with the ex-employee but you say the sacking is not a concern so I won't discuss potential employment rights.

    Probably wasn't a good idea talking to anyone but your manager or owner about a sensitive issue like this.
     
  3. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    There are is no personal 'right to privacy" per se, which would prevent someone from being able to talk about such things. If the information was imparted to you in confidence (impliedly or expressly) then you may be in breach of obligations of confidentiality but I doubt it.

    A defamation action can only be brought where you have said something defamatory about the claimant (who is wishing to sue) to a third party. In this case what you said is arguably not defamatory and in any even you would have the defence of 'truth'.

    I would just severe ties and move on. The pharmacy owner doesn't know what she's talking about.

    Check out these articles on defamation and its defences. Defences to Defamation in Australia - Legal Blog - LawAnswers.com.au
    Have You Been Defamed? What You Need to Know About Defamation Law in Australia - Legal Blog - LawAnswers.com.au
     
  4. Rod

    Rod Well-Known Member

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    BTW, in defamation I liked this quote from a judge discussing the truth defence in a case: "By telling the truth about a man his reputation is not lowered beyond its proper level but is merely brought down to it"

    Very pithy and I suspect an example of some judicial humour :)
     
    Sophea likes this.
  5. benhereford

    benhereford Member

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    Thanks for the help. I didn't think I had done anything illegal but wanted to be sure. I live in a small rural town with only a few pharmacies and everyone talks to everyone. I'm just going to pretend like none of this happened, not talk about it and get on with my new employment. Sometimes you've just got to shake your head and move on.
     

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