Is a breach of confidentiality by an HR departmentgrounds for a lawsuit?

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Is a breach of confidentiality by an HR departmentgrounds for a lawsuit?

A co-worker of mine was told that her position was re-classified (new title, lower pay grade, but maintained current salary). She was very upset and went to talk to HR. During the discussion, it came up that she was not alone. HR told her that the same thing had happened to me. The co-worker came to talk to me about it. HR clearly divulged confidential information. I am wondering if it would be enough damage to my career to bring a lawsuit against the company?

Asked on October 15, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, there is no cause of action here:

1) The information is not truly that which is a violation of privacy to disclose--e.g. health information, family status information, bank account information, social security number, etc. It's information about how positions within the company--i.e. positions created by the company, which it determines how much information about is known. It is unprofessional, but it is not likely the sort of information whose disclosure would sustain a privacy suit, since a company could choose to simply be transparent about salary information in the first place.

2) If the information is true, there is no defamation: defamation is the public statement of untrue factual information that damages a persons reputation.


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