international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Norway: Supreme Court provides Guiding Judgement regarding Employees Reviewing Sensitive Data

The Supreme Court has provided us with a guiding judgement regarding employees reviewing sensitive data without having a work-related reason. The court clarifies that an employer is not bound by sanctions from the public authorities.

The Supreme Court determined dismissal of health professional due to opening and reading records without a work-related reason, to be valid.

The case concerned the validity of the dismissal of a health professional who without a work-related need had reviewed five documents in the medical records of her boyfriend’s ex-wife. The access to the medical record was a clear violation of the prohibition against prying into patient’s records, in the Act relating to Health Personnel section 21 A.

The Norwegian Board of Health Supervision had merely given the employee a written warning for the violation of the prohibition, and the employee argued that a governmental body’s sanction governed the employer’s reaction in a sense that the employer could not give a more severe sanction, such as a dismissal. The Supreme Court did not agree and stated that neither the Working Environment Act nor the Act related to Health Personnel stipulates that reactions “in one track shall be coordinated with or have consequences for what is to be decided in the other track”.

The judgement confirms that the employer has the right to make its own assessments regardless of any reactions related to the same action provided by public authorities. Such sanctions may, however, provide some guidance in the seriousness of the breach of duties following from the employment. It is somewhat unclear whether the Supreme Court considers the review of documents as a valid reason for dismissal itself.

The Supreme Court emphasises the negative relationship between the health professional and the patient, and considers the violation to be more severe than if there had not been such a conflict, and the patient had not been a person the employee did not know.