In prior posts, we have highlighted why it is important for companies to protect proprietary information, as such data can be vital to the success of a business. It also can have legal implications because of how negligent perseveration of private information, especially employees’ personal data, can be actionable.
A recent ruling by an administrative law judge exemplifies this. According to a recent mercurynews.com report, the judge issued a preliminary decision that limited the number of Google employees whose private information must be turned over to labor department employees. The ruling stems from a department probe into pay discrimination claims raised earlier this year.
While no discrimination lawsuit has been filed, the Labor Department ostensibly seeks to enforce federal compliance rules by seeking such information. Google is a government contractor that must comply with a number of anti-discrimination rules.
The Labor Department sought information for 25,000 employees, including birth dates, citizenship and visa status, as well as salaries. Google argued that such a large sample was overbroad and unduly burdensome because it would put so many employees at risk. Google also rejected the need for providing personal phone numbers and email addresses as part of the probe.
The administrative law judge agreed, writing that the government’s request was “insufficiently focused on obtaining relevant information,” and that providing it would make it easier for “malicious hackers and misdirected government employees” to breach privacy defenses.
The story also exemplifies the need for experienced business litigation attorneys to fend off improper discovery requests.
It remains to be seen what will come of the Labor Department’s investigation based on this ruling.