That's advice that's been given to many people over the years and it may be wiser than ever these days, particularly for Australian employers. Many people are unable to acknowledge their own limitations and a lawsuit could follow if those limitations are mentioned in a recoverable way. Australian worker-protection and anti-discrimination laws mean that nothing written down about an employeee or job applicant is private
Have you ever had that creeping feeling that the reason you didn’t get a job was because someone, somewhere stuck a big knife in your back? Managers who seemed fine up until the day you left suddenly turned toxic when the reference checker called. Or perhaps an enthusiastic recruiter cooled on you after seeing your racy photos from Indy on Facebook?
The amazing thing is that you can act on your suspicions and apply to see the notes made about you during the recruitment process. That’s right. Under the existing Privacy Act you can apply to an employer or a recruiter to find out what has been said about you. And now under the Fair Work Act there could be more to check for but more on that later.
Harmers Workplace Lawyers senior associate, Bronwyn Maynard, says candidates can just apply directly to the employer or recruiter. There is no third-party process. Ms Maynard says there are some exemptions such as where the records include personal information about others or it is commercially sensitive. There is no set timeframe for employers to follow but Ms Maynard says expecting an answer back within 30 days is reasonable.
You can check to see any notes made about you during the recruitment process are accurate and relevant. If not, you can request any inaccuracies be corrected. If you deem the information “irrelevant”, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner. I did call the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and as far as they know, no one has ever made a complaint.
I will pass on what a hiring manager confided to me as a good example of info that could be deemed irrelevant. Sitting at a lunch this guy told me he didn’t hire a woman for a receptionist role because she had too many “friends” on Facebook and he was worried she would be spending all her time updating her posts. If he included this in notes made about the candidate and the candidate applied to see those notes, a claim could follow.
Social networking websites are hot with those sourcing candidates so using them to screen candidates is not a stretch. Indeed, Ms Maynard actually knows of a company that was none too happy when it discovered its line managers were collecting candidate info from social networking websites. She said the company “implemented formal policies [to] forbid the use of social media as a research tool for candidate information gathering – as they deemed this type of personal information to be illegitimate and irrelevant to their business.” “Importantly, employers must remember that these privacy obligations apply even if the information gathered was obtained from a public source as would be the case for many personal details included on an individual’s blog, twitter, Facebook or MySpace page,” she said.
The Privacy Act also requires employers and recruiters to tell you they have collected personal information about you; explain the purpose of gathering the information and let you know who else will see the information.
Ms Maynard says the Fair Work Act, which came into effect on July 1, 2009, offers candidates added protections. Under the “General Protections” section of the Fair Work Act, employers and recruiters cannot treat someone adversely for exercising a workplace right. Put in the recruitment context, this could mean that if you had made an unfair dismissal claim or worker’s compensation claim in the past, this information could not be used to discriminate against you on the job hunt.
Okay, so there is nothing to stop a savvy line manager or recruiter from not including incriminating items in their notes on a particular candidate. However, one HR manager told me she and colleagues struggle to comply with the Privacy Act so those notes are out there waiting for you.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here