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Confidentiality of Information Used in Career Decisions

CAUT Policy Statement

Post-secondary institutions must comply with privacy laws and principles in collecting, using, and disclosing information pertaining to their employees. Academic staff have broad rights to privacy of information collected, used or disclosed by the employer, including information utilized in career decisions. The employer and the academic staff association shall negotiate an agreement on the content and use of personnel files utilized in career decisions about members of the academic staff. The agreement should include the following:

The location of files should be specified for both the physical and digital version, if any. There should be only one file of record which should be consulted for any decision regarding the academic status of academic staff members.

Post-secondary institutions’ computer systems are likely to contain additional information for payroll, pensions and benefits. Security of these files from computer hackers and other unauthorized users must be assured. Because of the increased risk of security breaches and privacy violations, and data collection by service providers, institutions should prohibit outsourcing of information technology services and/or use of cloud based computing for processing or storing any information, including personnel information. 

Information in an individual’s personnel file shall be confidential and available only to authorized persons on a need-to-know basis. Any person or committee who for purposes of the agreement may have access to information contained in personnel files shall be bound by strict rules of confidentiality.

Academic staff members or their duly designated representatives have the right to inspect and to obtain copies of all material in their individual files. Duly authorized representatives of the academic staff association shall have access to information contained in personnel files for purposes of administering the collective agreement or academic staff handbook.

Academic staff members shall have the right to review and correct any errors in the file, and to add any relevant material to the file. Errors must be corrected, and out-of-date or irrelevant material shall be removed forthwith.

No anonymous material shall be retained in the file. Any exception, such as authorized statistics from authorized student surveys or other aggregated statistical surveys approved by the academic staff association, shall be negotiated and subject to agreement between the parties.

Any complaint or allegation which could result in the imposition of discipline shall be acted upon in a timely fashion. Should the dean or other designated authority choose not to investigate, then all complaints or allegations shall be removed from the file. Should the dean or other designated authority initiate an investigation which does not end in discipline, all records of the investigation and the complaints or allegations upon which it was based shall be removed from the file. Should discipline result from an investigation, any records of the investigation and resulting discipline, and the complaints or allegations upon which it was based shall be removed from the file after an appropriate period during which no further discipline has been imposed.

Any person or committee required to make a recommendation or a decision concerning contract renewal, tenure, promotion or discipline shall have access to, and shall base their recommendation or decision upon, the relevant information contained in the personnel file.  Due diligence shall be taken to ensure that the identity of those who have provided information on a confidential basis is protected. It is understood that should the matter lead to grievance/arbitration there shall be full disclosure..

The agreement shall ensure that the content of the file cannot be made available to third parties except as required:

a)  in grievance and arbitration procedure;
b)  at the request of the individual; and
c)  as provided by law and in accordance with all governing privacy laws.

Approved by the CAUT Council, November 2015.
Editorial revision, February 2021.