PL&B UK E-news, Issue 93

1. ICO imposes Enforcement Notices on 14 construction firms and employees plan legal action for compensation

The Information Commissioner (ICO) announced today that it yesterday imposed Enforcement Notices on 14 construction firms following the successful prosecution of Ian Kerr (PL&B UK Newsletter August 2009 p.3) on 16th July for maintaining a blacklist of employees. Six of the 14 firms are part of the Balfour Beatty Group. All the firms used the services of the Consulting Association which had a blacklist of 3,213 people.

Although the firms cooperated in the investigation, they were not given the opportunity of signing an Undertaking, a lower level regulatory action. Instead, they received the ICO’s Enforcement Notices, a more severe sanction.

But the consequences for the firms are likely to be far more wide reaching. The Enforcement Notices refer to “damage or distress to individuals….where an individual has been denied the opportunity of explaining or correcting what may be inaccurate personal data about them….which resulted in the denial of employment.” Therefore, the people involved have a right to claim for compensation for both material damage and for the distress involved under Section 13 of the Data Protection Act 1998.

As a result, an ICO spokesperson tells PL&B UK that:

1. hundreds of construction workers have contacted the ICO helpline for guidance
2. many are seeking redress through the Employment Tribunal, and
3. they have established a Blacklist Support Group to further their claims.

Labour MP, John McDonnell hosted a meeting in the House of Commons on 21st July to establish the group. The Blacklist Support Group is now investigating a potential class action civil claim and plans to attend the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress to lobby for further action against the companies.

Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith commented: “Fourteen firms paid for personal details about construction workers without those people knowing. The individuals were denied the opportunity of explaining or correcting what may have been inaccurate personal information about them, and which could have jeopardised their employment prospects in the construction industry.
“We have used the maximum powers available to us and this enforcement action sends a strong signal that organisations must take the Data Protection Act seriously. Should the firms fail to adhere to the terms of the Notices they could face prosecution.”

There will be a fuller report in the October issue of the PL&B UK Newsletter.

For further details on the Privacy Laws & Business UK Newsletter, please click here.

Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2009