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When Salary is Open to Public Scrutiny

May 22, 2015 - Diane Aldridge, Director of Compliance

The starting point of determining whether or not your salary is releasable starts with what access and privacy law applies to you in your circumstance. If you work for a government institution or local authority, then your salary is not considered your personal information.

Why does it matter if it is or is not considered personal information? Well, if it is not considered personal information, then the privacy protections afforded by privacy laws will not protect it from release to whoever is asking for it. If it did constitute your personal information, generally the only individual with a right to access that information would be you. That however is not the case with salary information of those working in the public sector. This is even though the following is generally considered to be your personal information: “information that describes an individual’s finances, assets, liabilities, net worth, bank balance, financial history or activities of credit worthiness.”

Some have asked our office why salary ranges cannot be released instead. In Saskatchewan, The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP) both state that “salary” is not considered personal information. In some jurisdictions, the legislation provides that “salary range” instead may be disclosed.

What about the public release of salaries over a certain dollar figure like $50,000 or $100,000? Neither FOIP nor LA FOIP discriminates when it comes to how much you make. Whether that amount is $20,000 or $200,000, it is releasable.

The IPC has a couple of past reports on our website that speak specifically to this issue. Investigation Report LA-2012-001 involves the City of Moose Jaw and its decision to publish in its public accounts information, salaries paid to employees and officers of the City but also that of police officers. The other report where salary was discussed was Investigation Report LA-2012- 002 involving the Regina Qu’Appelle Regional Health Authority. Discussed in this report is publishing salary information on the Internet. Although there was authority to release salary information publicly including on the Internet, technical safeguards should be utilized to prevent wide scale data mining. A specific recommendation in this case was to utilize web robot exclusion protocols to reduce the opportunity for web crawlers to crawl and compile information from web servers.

In conclusion, making available salary information of those working in the public sector is done to achieve the objective of making public expenditures more transparent for accountability purposes. If you have further questions on this topic, contact our office.

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