2001 Conferences

8th CACR Information Security Workshop
2nd Annual Privacy and Security Workshop

Mary O'Donoghue
Manager of Leagal Services/Senior Counsel
Ontario Information and Privacy Commission

Defining Boundaries in Workplace Privacy

In a Seattle shopping centre, a man uses a covert video camera to photograph up female employee's skirts and, when charged, argues that they have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their `public' workplace. In an Ontario nursing home, a resident's tape recorder inadvertently records an incident of resident abuse. At arbitration, the employee argues that the tape should be excluded on the grounds that it is an invasion of her privacy. A major Canadian bank adopts a drug and alcohol abuse policy that requires all new employees to submit to a urine test within 48 hours of an employment offer; failure to submit results in immediate dismissal. A U.S. airline suspends a pilot who posts bulletins critical of his employer on his own, 'secure' website, while a U.S. insurance firm terminates an independent contractor after finding emails on his leased computer criticizing the firm's business practices to the state regulator.

While the phenomenal rise, and technological sophistication, of workplace surveillance has made it one of the top issues in the media and the courts, the debate over workplace privacy remains mired by efforts to `strike a balance' between an employee's right to privacy and an employer's legitimate business concerns about abuse, liability, defamation and employee performance. This session explores the latest surveillance practices and privacy litigation in the U.S. and Canada and asks, "Where do we draw the lines?"

Speaker Bio
A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and Osgoode Hall Law School, Mary O'Donoghue is Manager of Legal Services and Senior Counsel for the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario, where her practice is largely focused on administrative and employment law. She also acts as Independent Legal Counsel to a domestic discipline body and has provided consulting services to the Ontario Integrated Justice Project on privacy issues.

She is a frequent writer and speaker on administrative law, privacy law and access to government information.

Active with the Ontario Bar Association, Ms. O'Donoghue is an Executive member of Council; Past Chair and former newsletter Editor of the Administrative Law Section; and Executive member and program co-ordinator of the Constitutional and Civil Liberties and Privacy Law sections. She is also a member of the Canadian Bar Association Council.

Ms. O'Donoghue has also been involved in numerous community organizations, including Nellie's Hostel, Homes First Society, Cottingham School, Central Toronto Community Legal Clinic and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.