We recently dismissed an employee with good reason. We told him that, as per the company policy, the fact he was dismissed was strictly confidential and that colleagues would not be told the reason why he left. Obviously, they would probably be able to work it out...

The issue is, one of the staff involved in the decision has told someone else that he was dismissed, and the news has now spread around the company.

Do we need to reach out to the dismissed ex-employee to tell him, as we previously informed him in writing that no one else would be told?


closed as off-topic by gnat, Justin Cave, mag, Mister Positive, JazzmanJim Feb 14 at 17:05

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  • Did the reason or any other confidential data get out? I mean that employee is not there anymore, so that fact is hardly a secret. – nvoigt Feb 13 at 14:32
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    Also, what did you tell your staff? People don't just disappear with no reason or explanation. – nvoigt Feb 13 at 14:34
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    I believe that law stack exchange will have better answers for you. GDRP and other laws on confidentiality are complicated. – Mołot Feb 13 at 14:40
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    Are you asking if the GDPR prohibits saying "Joe Dohn is no longer with the company"? Or are you asking if the GDPR prohibits saying "Joe Dohn disclosed the secret recipe to our main competitor"? – a CVn Feb 13 at 14:40
  • This is highly dependant on a) what exactly you want to reveal, b) whether that's a business necessity and other factors. As other people have stated, this could probably be more useful on law.SE (be sure to read their on topic guidance first) – mag Feb 14 at 7:20

There are two issues here.

First, the cat is out of the bag. Someone has left with no notice and has had all their work reassigned. Any functional person would assume they were dismissed.

Yes, this is likely a data breach in the most technical of views (check with a solicitor if in doubt), but so long as the information remains internal to the company, it will be hard for the departed to escalte this.

Second is a less-than-professional colleague/employee telling everyone things that were confidential.

I would suggest, if you are this person's line manager, that you remind them that one employee has already been shown the door for misconduct, and ask if they would like to join them. Running your mouth about confidential information deserves at least a warning, and in some companies it is gross misconduct (check the HR policies and contracts).

Document this in case a data breach is reported as it would show that action has been taken.

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    "Loose lips sink ships" - data breach was quite harmless this time, but who knows what he will say in future, and who will listen. – Mołot Feb 13 at 15:01

The mere fact that an employee has been let go would be hard to count as personal data. The details around it can be another matter entirely.

People come and leave employment all the time, sometimes of their own accord, sometimes of the company's. It's usually pretty easy from a third party perspective to distinguish when which occurred though.

The details surrounding the departure are what could be really damaging, however. If the employee was fired for cause and word got around, it can damage their reputation and ability to find employment more than having to address this in an interview as the employee cannot respond to the word-of-mouth account to balance the picture.

I would talk to your legal department and, assuming they give you the okay, write to the ex-employee stating that unfortunately, word about their dismissal has gotten out but not the details surrounding it*. Profusely apologise and assure them that you will do everything in your power to ensure no more details are leaked.

Then go deal with your leaker. How far you will want to go with this very much depends on what information got out. You can get away with a verbal warning if the mere fact that the ex-employee is now an ex-employee was all that got out, but other details may warrant stronger disciplinary action.

*Figure out if this is actually the case first. If it is not, I highly recommend you go back to your legal department and listen to ONLY what they have to say.


You have made a wrong decision once. Just not make another one. It looks to me that you should not expect from someone who has been dismissed to comply with your company's policy. So, if you tell someone that the "fact he was dismissed was strictly confidential and that colleagues would not be told the reason why he left" does not make the company any good!

Unless there is a contractual obligation in place, your ex-employee does not have an obligation to participate to such calls, keep to any of your company's policies or whatsoever. So, calling one, would even make things worst. The best policy is to be open with those who stay and not to keep them in the dark about your assessment methods.

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    The employee who departed is not part of the policy. The question doesn't suggest that. The question asks about another employee, who still works there, and has seemingly breached confidentiality promised to the fired employee. – rath Feb 13 at 16:38

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