Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has ordered the Department of Defence to apologise to a former employee as well as compensating him to the tune of $5000 after its human resources department passed on medical records against his wishes.
Pilgrim handed down the findings today, in the aftermath of a compensation claim mix-up that saw Defence officials pass the results of the claimant’s independent medical assessment onto his GP despite him expressly asking them not to.
The case kicked off in early 2013 when the former Defence employee lodged a claim with the Commonwealth compensation authority Comcare. Subsequent medical reports showed him to be suffering from “severe” depression and anxiety.
Following a routine independent health exam conducted at the Department’s request, Defence proceeded to pass the results directly to the former worker’s doctor.
Pilgrim has found that this exchange breached the Privacy Act, because Department officials had emailed the complainant and told him that if he didn’t want the documents passed on he would have to let them know formally – which he did.
The Commissioner has asked that Defence offer an apology in writing and $5000 compensation for exacerbating the complainant’s already fragile emotional state by failing to adhere to his wishes.
The Department will also need to write back to Pilgrim in six months with evidence that it has tightened up its information handling procedures and properly trained staff in the changes.