Privacy law does not prohibit disclosure

A BC arbitrator recently held that a grievor is not entitled to have her name withheld from publication in an arbitration decision involving her termination.  In Husband Food Ventures Ltd. (d.b.a. I.G.A. Store No. 11) and UFCW, Local 1518, the Union argued that British Columbia’s Personal Information Protection Act prohibited the publication of the grievor’s name, or alternatively, that the arbitrator should exercise his discretion and not publish the grievor’s name.

Arbitrator John Sanderson wrote that whether grievor’s name should be redacted  from the reasons is a matter within the discretionary authority of the arbitrator to be decided on the facts of the specific case.  He noted that the usual practice and custom of labour arbitrators in Canada for more than five decades is to name the parties to the collective agreement and the grievor.  He found this custom makes good labour relations sense as arbitrations are workplace events focussing on issues and persons who are members of a particular workplace community, and he noted that important lessons can be learned from arbitration decisions by labour, management and employees.

The arbitrator found that the onus is on the grievor to justify when anonymity is required, and that the Union did not identify special circumstances that would justify such anonymity.

It is interesting to note that privacy concerns have evolved to such a degree that the Union sought to challenge five decades of practice in this manner.

Meanwhile, there is another decision pending on the same issue raised by the same Union, but before another arbitrator.  We will watch for that decision with interest.