Stress payment for staff member's snooping reasonable

Categories:
Privacy & confidentiality
Summary:
Hana had taken a protection order against her former husband and gone with her children to another part of the country for a few weeks to get away from him.

Her former husband was in a relationship with a woman who worked at Hana’s bank. Hana was concerned the bank employee could work out where she was living by looking at the location of her eftpos transactions.

Hana asked the bank to check whether this woman was viewing her banking details. The bank discovered she had looked at Hana’s account without a valid reason several months earlier. Hana believed the staff member had done so on her former husband’s instruction, so he could work out whether she was in a financial position to support their children.

The bank did not condone the bank’s employee’s actions and undertook disciplinary action. However, the bank could not disclose the nature of this action because it would breach the employee’s privacy.

The bank offered Hana a financial settlement in recognition of the stress caused by the privacy breach. Hana considered the offer too low and complained to us.

Our investigation

We had to decide whether the compensation was reasonable in the circumstances, and to do that we had to establish whether there was a connection between the browsing of Hana’s accounts months earlier and her recent fears for her safety. We concluded there was no link.

In consultation with the Privacy Commission, we considered the bank’s offer of $550 to be reasonable in the circumstances. If the employee looked at Hana's accounts while she was worried for her safety, we would probably have viewed the bank’s offer differently.

Outcome

Hana accepted the bank’s offer.

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