When an employer confronts an employee with an allegation of improper access to personal information, it is important to give the employee the event log data that proves the allegation. It may often be voluminous and difficult to interpret, but presenting a general allegation or summarizing events without particulars will give the employee a good reason to deny the allegation.
This is what happened in this very illustrative British Columbia case in which an arbitrator held he could not infer dishonesty from the grievor’s initial failure to admit wrongdoing because the grievor had not been given log data. Also, if an employee continues to deny responsibility, log data can be difficult to rely upon; even if it can be established to be authentic, there are issues about presenting log data in a meaningful and privacy-protective way. An early admission can go a long way.
Fraser Health Authority (Royal Columbian Hospital) v British Columbia Nurses’ Union, 2017 CanLII 72384 (BC LA).
Who is the “health information custodian” when an institution with an educational mandate provides health care? PHIPA gives institutions choice. Here’s a presentation I gave yesterday in which I argue that the institution (and not its employed practitioners) should assume the role of the HIC. Also includes some simple content on the new PHIPA breach notification amendment.
Last week I sat on a panel about privacy and the accommodation of disability. I sat opposite union counsel Andrew Astritis from Raven Cameron, and Emma Phillips of Goldblatt Partners moderated. Andrew and Emma both know privacy law well, and we had a fun, engaging and even balanced discussion! I’ve put my “paper” and speaking notes below.
On July 29th, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered raw test data to be produced over the objection of plaintiff’s (neuropsychologist) expert, who claimed her professional obligations restricted her from disclosing the data forming the foundation of her expert’s report to anyone but another neuropsychologist. It said:
Counsel for the applicant defendant correctly submits that there is nothing in the Code of Conduct to substantiate the apparent position of the College of Psychologists of BC that test material cannot be released except to another psychologist or psychological service provider in another jurisdiction. He is correct. That is not what the Code of Conduct states.
The Court noted that not all experts are equal in interpreting data, but held that the quality of interpretation is a matter for trial.
Smith v Rautenberg, 2013 BCSC 1347 (CanLII).
On May 22nd the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered medical files to be returned to a clinic by a departing doctor who claimed she had an independent practice and was the legal custodian of the files.
Justice Perell dismissed the defendant’s argument that a corporation could not be a “health information custodian” under the Personal Health Information Protection Act and held that the plaintiff clinic had made out a strong prima facie case that it had such status. His suggestion that the defendant was also a health information custodian could best be understood as a function of the qualified burden of proof on an interlocutory motion given, under PHIPA, there can be only one custodian of a record of personal health information.
Justice Perell’s balance of convenience analysis is noteworthy. He said the following about the public interest in providing patients with access to their personal health information pending final resolution of the dispute:
In considering the balance of convenience, it is appropriate to consider the interests of the patients whose health records have been removed from a health clinic to the home of a health care practitioner. In my opinion, a patient will have better access to his or her health records and the health care practitioner who will treat the patient during Dr. Simon’s semi-retirement will have better access to the health records if the records are at professional offices with normal business hours and full-time staff.
A plaintiff in a similar situation could similarly attempt to make a case for return of records based on a claim to relatively superior security measures, though the stakes of pursuing such an approach would be high.
Note that the plaintiff consented to a term permitting the defendant doctor to make copies of any file relating to a patient she had treated. This is a sensible thing to offer in a dispute over custodianship, but again, is inconsistent with the single custodian rule.
1615540 Ontario Inc. carrying on business as Healing Hands Message v Simon, 2013 ONSC 2986 (CanLII).
On March 7th, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued an order to secure medical records held by a former employee of an addiction clinic.
The employee had copies of urinalysis reports stored on her personal e-mail account at the time of termination because she had used her personal e-mail account for work purposes. She allegedly used her continuing possession of the e-mails to extort the employer into offering reinstatement and later refused to return the e-mails, arguing they were evidence of the employer’s wrongdoing. (It is not clear from the decision what wrongdoing the employee alleges.)
The Court granted an ex parte order after applying the test for an Anton Piller. Notably, the order required the employee to turn control of her e-mail account to an independent supervising solicitor authorized to copy and retain the e-mails, delete the e-mails on the account and return control of the account to the employee. The Court authorized the employer to serve the order by e-mail.
Garber v Robinson, 2013 ONSC 1427 (CanLII).