A decision to allow a Timaru job seeker the right to see the CVs of people who beat him to a job could have wide reaching implications for employers and job seekers, says a leading law firm.
In 2012, Kevin Waters, then 62-years-old, applied for two positions at Alpine Energy - a company that Waters had worked for previously from 1975 to 2008, before he resigned.
Waters was interviewed for a maintenance job, where he was told he would not be interviewed for the other position because, "initial screening indicated that applications had been made by candidates better suited".
He then commenced proceedings under the Human Rights Act 1993 alleging age discrimination.
Employment law expert and partner at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts law firm, Jennifer Mills said employers are increasingly being caught in the middle of on-going tension between New Zealand's privacy laws and its employment and human rights laws.
"Given the lack of consideration being given to the principles of the Privacy Act, arguments of relevance may be the strongest base from which to defend an employer's non-disclosure decision," she said.
The Human Rights Review Tribunal made a discovery order asking Alpine Energy to release a summary of job applications, a summary of the recruitment firm's referee checking, as well as emails and telephone conversation notes between the energy firm and lawyers.
Alpine Energy argued that providing such information would harm the free flow of evaluative material from job seekers.
These summaries may hold extremely sensitive and personal information, such as the results of criminal or credit checks, or personal health issues, Mills said.
But the Tribunal noted there was no evidence that providing this information would harm the free flow of information between a prospective employee, prospective employer and referees.
"The impact of this decision on the forthrightness of candidates applying for positions, and on referees providing comprehensive, free and frank feedback, could be substantial."
"Employers should think carefully about the information that they record during the recruitment process, particularly in relation to evaluative material and subjective comments and ensure that they are comfortable about such information being disclosed," Mills said.
Job seekers now need to be prepared for the possibility that their personal information my be disclosed to others.
"Applicants should consider stating expressly, as part of the recruitment process, that they do not consent to the disclosure of their personal information," Mills said.
A four day hearing has been set out in Timaru for Waters' case once all the documents, and evidence have been filed.