TORONTO, Ont. – Paige Backman, an expert in corporate and commercial law, wants carriers to think like lawyers when dealing with staff.
Any time personal information is taken from someone – on a driver application form, for example – privacy and freedom of information legislation come into play, says Backman.
That’s why understanding the sometimes thorny legal issues involved puts carriers in a better position to deal with them.
Backman, along with Aird & Berlis LLP colleague Donald Johnston, were on hand at the 2004 Canadian Recruiting and Retention Conference, held at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto on Sept. 22-23, to answer questions about just how delicate the information trucking companies deal with is in a legal sense.
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) applies everywhere in Canada except in B.C., Quebec and Alberta. These provinces have their own similar provincial statutes.
The basic principle underlying PIPEDA is a balance between the public need for privacy and the need of businesses to do business, said Johnston.
Personal information includes any piece of information that can help identify a person – such as gender, age, health card number, driving record or names of family members. However, any information that you may find on a business card, like an employee’s name, title, business address or business phone number is not considered personal data.
“Personal information has become the biggest asset that a company can have,” said Backman. “But much of the information that trucking companies deal with is sensitive, so it has to be handled delicately.”
Privacy law covers the collection – direct or indirect – use, retention and disclosure of personal information and a company’s policy should consider all aspects, Backman said.
“You need to understand your own company’s processes and privacy needs and the type of information you collect so that you can develop a policy and become compliant,” said Backman.
Trucking companies should be familiar with and implement the following privacy principles so they are prepared for any legal circumstances that could arise:
Be sure to identify the purpose for asking for specific information.
Get the driver’s consent to take down the information. Taking information over the phone is fine provided the information is being provided voluntarily.
Limit the collection, use, retention and disclosure of personal information as much as possible.
Ensure there are safeguards such as a locked door, passwords or encryption.
It is important that everyone in the company understands the privacy policies.
Know that drivers have the right to access the personal information you may have on them.
Trucking company officials often wonder about asking for or providing social insurance numbers – that always seems to cause some debate, Backman said.
“You don’t need a social insurance number for a credit check. They will probably ask you for one, but you don’t need it, and since it is the most sensitive piece of information for any Canadian citizen, there is no reason to take it until the person is going through payroll as an employee of the company,” said Backman.
Many companies will use this number as an identification number or driver number, but there is no need for that. It is just as easy (and more secure) to pick a new number.
“If there is ever a question raised about your practices, the privacy commissioner will ask why you couldn’t have used another number,” said Backman.
A prepared company is one whose policy complies with the privacy laws and employees understand that policy, she concluded.
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