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Many professionals, like counselors, clergy, physicians, and others, are entrusted with information that is personal in nature. In the business world, employees are often granted access to proprietary data and trusted to not reveal that information to anyone outside the company structure. Employers are also often entrusted with information about employees that is of a confidential nature. Any type of unauthorized disclosure of confidential information is likely to cause problems for both parties and may even lead to legal action, resulting the offended party receiving some type of monetary compensation.
There are situations in which the disclosure of confidential information is allowed. Typically, this means that both parties agree to share the data with a third party. For example, a patient may authorize a counselor to share private data with a physician, allowing the two professionals to work together in aiding the patient to recover from some type of trauma. In situations where the disclosure is agreeable to all concerned, the consequences are likely to be positive, allowing everyone involved to achieve their shared goal.
In any situation involving unauthorized disclosure, the consequences are likely to be damaging for everyone concerned. For example, revealing medical records to an employer or any party without the permission of the patient could lead to negative consequences for that patient, possibly loss of work and income, or change of standing in a community. Assuming that it is possible to measure and qualify the loss sustained as a result of the disclosure, the innocent party may be able to seek damages from the offending party in a court of law, a process that often serves to further damage the standing of both parties.
The innocent party does not necessarily have to be an individual. Should an employee engage in disclosure of confidential information entrusted to him or her by an employer, several consequences are likely to occur. Termination of employment is highly likely, especially if there is a confidentiality clause in the employment contract. In addition, should the company be able to prove it has sustained some type of financial loss as a result of the employee’s indiscretion, the possibility of suing for damages is very real. At the very least, the employee may find it very difficult to a position with another company.
Many nations have laws in place that protects the rights of the party that has been harmed by the breach in confidence, especially if it is well-documented. Victims of this type of activity should secure legal counsel as soon as the disclosure becomes apparent, and proceed in whatever manner that counsel recommends. With a little luck, the damage can be kept to a minimum, making it easier to recover from the indiscretion and move forward.
What are the ramifications for an employer of an employee who breaches confidentiality?
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