Many may wonder, “Why is confidentiality in the workplace so important?” Some information is obvious, such as employee or client social security numbers and financial information. Other information, such as certain business information and management information may not be so obvious. However, trade secrets and other information are usually highly confidential. Training employees as to what constitutes confidential business information goes a long way in protecting your business.
Employee information should be kept confidential, even from other employees, except those in the HR department who need access to the information. If an HR employee doesn’t need access to certain employee information, that person should not have access to it. Part of learning how to maintain confidentiality in the workplace is knowing who should have access to information and compartmentalizing the information via password-protected files and locked filing cabinets.
In some cases, if some employees have access to certain employee files, that information could be used to discriminate against an employee, and therefore would be a violation of The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). A business could be fined heavily for discriminatory practices, even if management does not know of the discrimination.
Protect confidential business documents by shredding documents that are out of date or are no longer needed. This is just one of the types of confidential information that should be kept under lock and key. Confidential business information includes that such as trade secrets or proprietary information. For example, a restaurant’s recipes may be considered trade secrets. Manufacturing processes, customer lists, business plans, budgets and financial data are all examples of proprietary business information.
You should also protect business information that is considered “management information.” This type of information includes internal conversations, disciplinary actions, workplace investigations and information about upcoming layoffs or plans to fire an employee. Some of this information may also be used to discriminate against employees and should be kept secret from all except those in management who need the information.
The best way to keep information confidential is to have it professionally shredded. But confidentiality starts as soon as a document is created. Some ways to keep your information from getting into the wrong hands include:
Set up degrees of confidentiality. Allow only the most trusted employees to access certain information. You can do this with password-protected files. Only allow employees who need the information to have access to it.
As part of the employee handbook rules, institute consequences for sharing confidential information.
Use locked boxes from Carolina Shred to store documents that are to be shredded.
Set up an account with Carolina Shred to pick up the locked boxes as often as they are needed.
Keep filing rooms locked. Only those who need access to paper documents should have access to the filing room. In the filing room, label cabinets based on the type of information. Allow access to individual cabinets based on the type of information kept in the cabinets.
Keep all outside doors locked. If you are a retail establishment, doors into the storage and office areas of the store should be locked from the outside. Because of fire regulations, doors must be able to be opened from the inside.
Have all hard drives and other digital media shredded, even if the digital media no longer functions.
Contact Carolina Shred to set up an account to shred documents and digital media as needed. We will come to your business to pick up locked shred boxes. You will also receive a certificate of destruction for documents and digital media that have been shredded.