The Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) endorses the recommendations made today by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, calling on government and police boards to immediately stop disclosing non-conviction information as part of employment – related record checks outside the vulnerable sector.

The Privacy Commissioner’s recommendations reflect the numerous problems that CLAS identified in its submissions as part of the public consultation process, particularly that:

  1. Disclosing mental health information to employers through a police information check operates on a stereotypical and harmful presumption that people with mental illness are a liability in the workplace;
  2. The current system of arbitrarily disclosing mental health information for people who experience mental health crisis in the presence of the police disproportionately disadvantages people who already face significant barriers to employment; and
  3. Disclosing non-conviction information undermines the cornerstone principle of our criminal justice system: the presumption of innocence.

CLAS is particularly concerned about the inclusion of information relating to a person’s mental health being disclosed to employers.  As the Privacy Commissioner explained, “When an individual involved in a mental health incident poses no threat to others, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which this information would be legitimately relevant to employers.”  The fact that British Columbia is at “the extreme end of the disclosure spectrum compared to other jurisdictions” reinforces the premise that such intrusive checks are not necessary or justified.

“The Commissioner’s recommendations, if adopted, will go a long way to ensuring workers are not arbitrarily discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of intensely private information that is irrelevant to their ability to do the job”, said Kevin Love, staff lawyer at CLAS.  “The ability to participate in the workforce on the strength of your ability rather than an employer’s level of suspicion or fear is a basic principle of human rights which benefits everyone”.

The Privacy Commissioner’s report is found here.