On July 25, 2012 the British Columbia Information and Privacy Commissioner released an investigation report regarding the use of employment related criminal record checks by the Government of British Columbia. The Commissioner concluded that the Government’s current policy with respect to criminal records checks contravenes the Freedom of Information and Protect of Privacy Act as, among other things, it fails to achieve the balance required between the government’s business needs as an employer and the privacy rights of employees. She made a number of recommendations and concluded by expressing her concern about the societal trend towards increased employment related criminal record checks without clear evidence as to their benefit.

The Commissioner noted that a growing number of employers are using criminal record checks and police information checks as employment screening tools, and that such checks are highly privacy invasive.  She indicated that in her view, there should be a nexus between job requirements, duties and the proposed record check and, where record checks are used, controls must be in place to minimize the privacy implications for affected individuals.

The report contains an appendix listing Best Practices for Public Sector Record Checks.  While the legal framework of this investigation occurred in the context of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which applies only to “public bodies” in British Columbia, the best practices listed provide a good reference point for all employers considering their privacy practices and obligations. The Commissioner indicated that her office will be releasing best practice for private sector record checks at a future date and we will keep you posted.