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Saskatoon library ignored lifting of COVID restrictions, privacy commissioner says

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Saskatoon library ignored lifting of COVID restrictions, privacy commissioner says
An investigation by the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner has found that Saskatoon Public Library breached an employee's privacy when it asked for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test results, even though a provincial mandate had been lifted. - Nathaniel Dove – Jan 25, 2023

An investigation by the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner has found that Saskatoon Public Library breached an employee’s privacy when it asked for proof of COVID-19 vaccination or test results, even though a provincial mandate had been lifted.

Library management told employees on March 11, 2022, that they must continue to submit proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, even though the Saskatchewan cabinet lifted the Employers’ COVID-19 Emergency Regulations on Feb. 14.

“They needed to have authority to do it,” said Ronald Kruzeniski, Saskatchewan’s Information and Privacy Commissioner in a report dated Jan. 16. “At one point, the province introduced a regulation that gave them that authority, but on Feb. 14, that authority was rescinded.”

The report stated that “without the Employers’ COVID-19 Emergency Regulations, an employer can no longer demand vaccination/test and an employee is no longer required to comply with a vaccination/test demand made by an employer.”

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Saskatoon library took it upon itself to enforce its own mandate until May 31.

A library employee confronted management and said that the request was “in violation of the Saskatchewan Employment Act and HIPA.”

Saskatoon library (SPL) responded to the employee the same day. “SPL has a policy that requires employees to submit COVID test certificates with negative results if they have not submitted proof of vaccination. SPL is no longer asking employees to submit proof, but if they have not yet done so, then they submit test results. The policy is within our legal rights.”

In a statement to Global News, the library claimed it was operating under its personal COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan, which “in addition to many activities designed to provide a safe working environment, required mandatory employee masking, testing and proof of vaccination.

Saskatoon library had provided the complainant with the “Testing and Vaccination Exposure Control COVID-19 Policy” document, which was created by the municipal library, not the provincial government.

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“You are expecting me to comply to an invasion of my privacy and are refusing to answer my questions to justify the invasion,” the complainant said in response to the library’s documentation. “I fail to see why it is so difficult to provide me with the law or regulation that permits a person’s private information to be demanded by an employer.”

SPL claimed it had a duty to take every reasonable precaution to protect workers.

“SPL determined the frequency of contact with the general public in the workplace created a high-risk environment for the transmission of COVID to employees and took measures to reduce workplace hazards,” read the statement.

The Privacy Commissioner explained that while many will look at public safety and consider it more important than privacy, the library still did not have the authority to make its request.

Kruzeniski recommended the library ensure that all of the COVID-19 test results from the complainant within the system (including emails) be destroyed within 30 days.

SPL told Global News that all employee testing and vaccination status information was removed from its system in June 2022.

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