Moray Council has been accused of breaching the privacy of employees after personal details about a worker were left open for her colleagues to see on a shared computer system.
A folder containing information on grievances raised by the employee – and a tally of the time she spent having breaks – was spotted by one of her colleagues and brought to her attention.
She complained to her union, Unite, which has now raised fears that the practice of leaving “sensitive” information exposed could be widespread.
Moray Council yesterday said it had not been provided with any specific allegations and was unable to address questions about the supposed breach.
But The Press and Journal was shown a string of e-mails which prove that top brass were aware.
Last night union leaders criticised the authority for “lying” about the matter.
Unite regional officer Tommy Campbell said: “The breaches have flagged up employees unknowingly being monitored by senior management, which is completely unacceptable.
“This is why we need a full and comprehensive independent investigation into this serious issue.
“We demand that the council answers to this, and that any spying ceases immediately.”
Mr Campbell claimed council officers had privately confessed to him that a “small breach” of the employee’s data protection rights had taken place as the folder was accessible on an open server.
He said the files which the employee saw had sparked fears that management could be snooping on an unknown number of employees by tracking their working habits.
Mr Campbell added: “The nature of the sensitive personal data we believe to have been displayed to an undisclosed number of employees is shocking.
“How far and wide this spread across the council’s systems and whether it related to other confidential material about Moray Council employees we simply do not know at this stage.”
A Moray Council spokeswoman said the authority was unable to address the concerns because Unite had failed to provide sufficient detail on the breach.
She said: “In the absence of any detail on specific incidents or allegations, Unite has provided nothing for us to respond to.
“If this detail can be provided, we will be in a position to comment further.”
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But Mr Campbell insisted that he had visited the council’s headquarters in Elgin to discuss the matter, and that senior staff were well aware of the problems.
He said: “That is an outrageous response, the council is well aware of this.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said the row served to highlight the importance carefully managing personal information.
He said: “All employers have to be extremely careful in terms of handling sensitive information on employees, and I would expect management at Moray Council to investigate this case once they are able to understand the specific details required to do so.
“If union representatives have already met to discuss their concerns then it is incumbent on management to now respond accordingly.”
A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner’s Office, which deals with complaints about data protection breaches, said: “All organisations processing personal data should do so safely and securely.
“If anyone has concerns about how their data has been handled, they can report these concerns to us and we can look into the details.”