Work Product vs. Personal Information

February 22, 2016 - Melanie Coyle, Analyst

We often get questions about employees’ or board members” names on documents, meeting minutes, organizational websites, etc. Public bodies are unsure whether the names should be severed before released to an applicant or made public on a website.

So, I thought I would write a blog on what is personal information of an employee and what is what we would consider as ‘work product’.

Personal information is defined in sections 24 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) and section 23 of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (LA FOIP). Part of the definition includes “employment history” and “personal opinions”.

‘Employment history’ is the type of information normally found in a personnel file such as performance reviews, evaluations, disciplinary actions taken, reasons for leaving a job or leave transactions. It does not include work product.

A public body collects various personal information of its employees and board members. This personal information should, of course, be protected. But it is not the same as work product.

‘Work product’ means information prepared or collected by an individual or group of individuals as a part of the individual’s or group’s responsibilities or activities related to the individual’s or group’s employment or business.

So, I bet you are confused now! Here are some examples that may help clarify this:

 Work Product  Personal Information
Jane made this decision based on certain criteria.  It was her role to make the decision. Even though Jane made the decision based on certain criteria, her opinion was that she would have preferred a different opinion.
The public body has awarded a contract to Bill for a service. The public body did not award Bill this contract because he did not have favorable references.
Jill gave the following advice to her supervisor when asked to do so. Jill’s performance evaluation suggests that she should do more research before providing advice.
Board Member Joe made a motion in the meeting. Board Member Joe resigned from the Board for personal reasons.
Just a few other notes to keep in mind:
  • Pursuant to subsections 24(1)(h) of FOIP and 23(1)(h) of LA FOIP, Joe’s opinions about Bill qualifies as Bill’s personal information.
  • If you are wondering about salary information, that is a whole different can of worms…  see our blog When Salary is Open to Public Scrutiny.

Don’t worry… I’ve worked at the OIPC for 7 years, and it still takes all my concentration to figure this out. Wait… is that my personal information?

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