Ontario Court: Mid-Employment Criminal Records Checks are a Violation of Privacy

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An Ontario court has ruled that the city of Ottawa would be violating its firefighters’ right to privacy by conducting mid-employment criminal records checks.  The court ruled that the only circumstances under which the city would be allowed to run a criminal records search on a firefighter would be either when the the employee is hired or when he or she has been convicted of a crime while employed.

Question #1:  How does the court expect the city to know about the criminal conviction that took place while the firefighter is employed without running the mid-employment criminal records check?

Question #2:  Is the court naive enough to think that an employee will only commit a crime in their jurisdiction, thereby giving the city a heads up to conduct the search?

Question #3:  Does the court really think that an employee will volunteer crime or conviction information from another jurisdiction and put his or her job in jeopardy?

The court then introduced the question of whether the city should be allowed to run background checks on their firefighters prior to employment, again citing right to privacy.  Don’t even get me started!

Ontario court rejects mid-employment criminal record checks

08/19/2009

Arbitrator found checks should only be made at hiring or if employee gets convicted, but appeal court says employees can refuse them any time

An Ontario court has denied the rights of the City of Ottawa to perform periodic criminal records checks on firefighters in the middle of their employment. It also questioned whether the city had the right to perform these kinds of checks at all.

In 2007, the city developed a policy to perform criminal record checks on its firefighters mid-employment. The firefighters’ union grieved the policy, saying the checks violated the firefighters’ privacy. Under the province’s Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), criminal records are protected, as opposed to individual convictions, which are available to the public. The union argued the only circumstances in which a firefighter or any other employee should be ordered to consent to a criminal records check would be when she is hired or where there are reasonable grounds, such as a criminal conviction that could affect the nature of the employment.

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