Liberty Watch - February/March 2014

Employment

Lie detector tests for job applicants

Polygraph, or lie detector, tests are now being offered to New Zealand companies and recruitment agencies for use in pre-employment checks.  The test is part of a growing industry in background checking of new staff.  But critics claim the data collection is excessive and take advantage of desperate job seekers.

Resume Check owner James Sutherland, whose company offers comprehensive background check packages, including research into a person's ACC history, immigration status and credit rating, said most candidates were accepting of the process, and any information collected must be relevant to the role, and this was monitored carefully.  Each potential employee had to sign a form allowing the checks to be done, and nothing was forced. "If it's not relevant, they don't do it and all of our clients are aware of their obligations,” he said. 

Labour Party associate labour spokeswoman Darien Fenton however, said she was concerned about the amount of data being collected in pre-employment checks.

She believed it was "over the top" to ask people for their ACC history and was convinced people who were desperate for a job would agree to have the information released even if they were uncomfortable with it.

Assistant privacy commissioner Katrine Evans agreed, advising potential employers to consider whether it was really necessary to know someone's ACC history or hook them up to a lie-detecting machine.

"Before shelling out for a highly intrusive service like polygraph testing, common sense as well as privacy rules mean you should check that it's something that you really need and that you have a really good case which can be justified under the Privacy Act."

The Dominion Post 21/2/14

 

On-site Workplace Drug Screening increases in 2013

The number of on-site workplace drug tests has increased 19% over the last year, the New Zealand Drug Detection Agency (NZDDA) has announced.

In  2013 NZDDA conducted 81,410 on-site drug-screening tests, up from 68,346 tests carried out in 2012.  Of those tests, 5.5% tested non-negative which is an indication that a presence of a drug is detected, down from 6.4% in 2012.

Alcohol screening rose 30% in 2013 compared with 51,252 tests in 2013.  Hair testing, which give a history of drug and/or alcohol use over the previous 90 days, and mostly takes place for ‘white collar’ pre-employment testing has doubled to 476 tests in 2013, with 120 tests being positive.

Cannabis and methamphetamine were the most detected drugs. 

In 2013, 29.2% of non-negative results were conducted for reasonable cause; in 2012 this figure was 31%. 

In 2013 random testing detected 4.9% non-negative test results, down from 6% in 2012, with pre-employment testing at 4% for 2013, down from 5% in 2012.

Scoop.co.nz 13/3/14

 

New Zealand Bar Owner Defends Gender-Biased Ad

A popular bar in Ponsonby, New Zealand has been criticised for advertising "jobs for women only," a day after a restaurant in Stanmore Bay was revealed by the Herald to be doing the same.

An online ad by Chapel Bar & Bistro read: "We need female bar and floor staff at Chapel." The ad invited people to email if they were interested in the job. Luke Dallow, owner of the Ponsonby bar, defended the ad saying it was intentionally worded that way because businesses in central Auckland want to have gender balance.

According to the Human Right Commission, both the bar and the restaurant may have violated the Human Rights Act. A spokesman for the commission said if complaints are filed against both establishments, the case would be handled in the usual way.

The spokesman said it would be up to the Human Rights Review Tribunal to determine if the complaint is unlawful. If a complaint is found in breach of human rights, the tribunal can award compensation for damages up to $200,000.

The Human Rights Act includes grounds for illegal discrimination where employers are not allowed to discriminate against a job applicant or employee, including their gender, religious belief, colour, race, ethnicity and marital status.

International Business Times 26/2/14

 

Refusal to work on Sabbath upheld

A former Fiji national was recently awarded a little over $27,000 by the New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal, which ruled that the company that sacked him for refusing to work on his Sabbath contravened his human rights.

Jalesi Nakarawa was awarded the money in a ruling on 24 February for damages and income lost after meat processing company Affco New Zealand sacked him three years ago.

"The right to exercise one's faith is at the crux of the matter," Nakarawa said.

The 57-year-old is a member of the Church of God and his religious beliefs state he should not work after sunset every Friday until Saturday evening.

The tribunal ordered he be paid $12,118.00 for loss of wages and awarded another $15,000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to his feelings.

Fijitimes.com 8/3/14

 

New Zealand prostitute wins sex harassment claim

A New Zealand prostitute has won substantial damages for sexual harassment by a brothel owner, with sex workers hailing the decision as a landmark ruling that shows the country as a world leader in protecting their rights.

In what New Zealand media reported as a "world first," the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the 22-year-old brothel worker $25,000.

The tribunal heard the brothel owner reportedly told the woman he could do what he liked with the women who worked for him.

Over a three-month period, the older man belittled and frightened the woman until she felt unsafe and on edge, became depressed and turned to alcohol, according to the tribunal's decision released Saturday.

"Sex workers are as much entitled to protection from sexual harassment as those working in other occupations," the ruling said.

Bangkok Post 1/3/14

 

Gay and Transgender Rights

NZ military most tolerant to gay soldiers

New Zealand has topped a new global index ranking armed forces for inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender soldiers.

The LGBT Military Index assesses admittance, tolerance, exclusion or persecution of homosexuals to measure 103 armies worldwide, the Hague-based Centre for Strategic Studies think-tank said.

The think-tank noted that New Zealand had produced a video for the "It Gets Better" project, which reached out to young people struggling with their sexuality.

At the start of the video, the NZ Defence Force says it is proud to be an organisation that accepts its LGBT staff.

Otago Daily Times 21/2/14

 

Government Communications Security Bureau

Spy agency slow to put fixes in place

The path to improvement for Prime Minister John Key's malfunctioning spy agency appears to have frozen, a progress report shows.  Of 80 recommendations intended to fix the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), just 35 have been completed.

The recommendations came after Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge's report in April last year raised concerns about 88 instances where the GCSB had spied on New Zealanders.

Mr Key said then: "I acknowledge this review will knock public confidence in the GCSB. This is why the Government has a comprehensive response under way to address the organisational problems at the GCSB."

The response was a list of 80 recommendations intended to ensure the GCSB acted legally. It was also intended to address organisational failings.

The first two reports released in June and September showed 34 recommendations had been completed.

The latest update from December, not released but supplied when sought by the New Zealand Herald, showed just one new recommendation was met in the latest reporting period. It means a total of 35 recommendations have been completed with 45 to go and a June deadline looming.

For the first time, the progress report also included partially completed recommendations. It shows another 27 are in progress, leaving 18 recommendations on which there appears to be no progress at all.

New Zealand Herald 5/3/14

 

Immigration

Hip-Hop group refused entry to New Zealand

Hip-Hop group Odd Future has been refused entry into New Zealand after being determined a threat to public order.

Immigration NZ confirmed in a statement that it refused to allow members of the group to travel to New Zealand.

The Immigration Act 2009 provides that entry permission may not be granted where there is reason to believe there is, or is likely to be, a threat or risk to public order or the public interest.

"Odd Future has been deemed to be a potential threat to public order and the public interest for several reasons, including incidents at past performances in which they have incited violence. In one instance, a police officer was hospitalised following a riot incited by Odd Future,'' the statement read.

New Zealand Herald 13/2/14

 

Media

Press Council to offer membership to blogs

The Press Council will offer membership to blogs and digital media and will get tougher powers for dealing with complaints.

Press Council chairman, former High Court judge Sir John Hansen, said he welcomed broadening the council's remit.

"It's important that all consumers of media have an avenue for complaint, and for them to believe their complaint has been handled with fairness and professionalism."

Digital media will be offered a new form of membership with a fee based on the size of the entity and its commercial or non-commercial status. They must agree to the same statement of principals and complaints process as other members.

Under the changes the council would also have the right, in exceptional circumstances, to censure a magazine, newspaper or website by unanimous decision of the council.

Other new measures include greater power over where an adjudication appears in a publication.

Members will be required to regularly publicise information about the Press Council's complaints process, and member websites will be required to provide an easy-to-find complaints channel with details on making a complaint.

The council will also have the power to direct that elements of a story be removed from an online article, or for a story to be taken down.

The new structure will take effect from 1 May.

New Zealand Herald 23/3/14

 

MPs warned of internet censorship risk

Proposed laws to clamp down on online abuse could instead spark digital censorship, Telecom has warned.

Internet firms that host websites or social media could end up removing content whenever someone complained, in order to avoid penalties, Telecom regulatory manager John Wesley-Smith told MPs yesterday. That would give censorship powers to complainants who were deliberately seeking to stifle debate.

"We are concerned that this will create unhealthy sensitiveness for online content hosts to remove any content that is complained about," he said.

"This raises questions about censorship and freedom of speech."

For content that it did not control, such as third-party websites, the problem would be more pronounced, and Telecom's only recourse would be to shut the sites down, he said.

Telecom was speaking before the justice and electoral select committee, which is considering a bill to criminalise "harmful digital communication," including inciting suicide online.

It would also create a new authority to consider complaints and issue takedown notices, which would cover internet service providers.

The Dominion Post 27/3/14

 

New Legislation

Claims that Bill targeting child pornography offenders needs fine-tuning

The New Zealand Law Society has told Parliament’s Justice and Electoral select committee that some aspects of the Objectionable Publications and Indecency Legislation Bill need further consideration. 

Law Society spokesperson Graeme Edgeler says the principal aim of the bill is to increase penalties applying to images of child sexual exploitation. “But the range of objectionable publications targeted by the bill is much broader, and can include material that is not about sex or child sexual exploitation at all,” he says.

The bill proposes to increase the maximum sentence for making or supplying objectionable material from 10 to 14 years, and possession of objectionable material involving knowledge from 5 to 10 years, but The Law Society questions whether the proposed increases in maximum sentence should be restricted to cases involving images of child sexual exploitation, since this is the principal concern behind the bill.

As it stands the maximum penalty for possessing a book about growing marijuana, which could be considered objectionable under the proposed new law, will be higher than that for actually growing the drug, the Law Society has told MPs considering the new bill.

Otago Daily Times 6/3/14 & Scoop.co.nz 6/3/14

 

Harmful Digital Communications Bill

The Human Rights Commission has welcomed the introduction of the Harmful Digital Communications Bill that aims to address cyberbullying and provide victims with forms of redress.

In the Commission’s submission to the Justice and Electoral Committee, Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says the right to be free from bullying is fundamental to the realisation of basic human rights.  “Everyone, particularly children, have a right to personal security,” he says.

Rutherford says the Commission recognises that although some opponents of the Bill may argue it infringes the right to freedom of expression the Commission considers that restriction justified in order to protect vulnerable people and children in particular.  

“The Bill strikes the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to prevent or reduce harm to others,” Rutherford says.

The Bill will create a new civil enforcement regime that will resolve complaints in a number of ways including mediation and the District Court declaring the breach of Communication Principles.  One of the principles, Communication Principle 10, states that a digital communication should not denigrate someone because of some of the grounds that are unlawful under the Human Rights Act. 

The grounds are colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability, but The Commission, in its submission, questioned why the principle does not extend to the other grounds of the Act such as beneficiary status which is part of employment status.

Beneficiaries who are hounded or criticised for living off the State, for example, may be equally upset by unpleasant online comment but unable to complain under the Bill. “The Commission finds it hard to understand why some of the grounds have been included and not others.”

Scoop.co.nz 20/3/14

 

Allegation that NGOs fear losing funding if critical of Government

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are being reassured their funding will not be

Some have said they won't put their names to submissions critical of legislation, lest they lose their funding.

The issue came to light when the Auckland Domestic Violence and Disability Working Group made a submission on the Human Rights Amendment Bill to a parliamentary select committee on Tuesday.  It said many of the groups it represents did not want to be named because they were worried about their funding.

Labour MP Maryan Street says she was stunned to hear that, and that it mirrors the climate of fear in the public service. "I found that really shocking," she says, "because this is not how we run this country. This is a human rights bill amendment that we are debating at the moment and if people can't speak up on human rights in New Zealand, what can they speak up on?”

However the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Jo Goodhew, stated that she is concerned to hear the claims and is not sure why NGOs would feel that way.

"I absolutely know that the grant funding is independent of the government and deliberately set up so," Ms Goodhew says.

Radionz.co.nz 26/2/14

 

Police

Plan for police to wear cameras

Justice Minister Judith Collins is reportedly contemplating frontline police wearing body-mounted cameras while on duty after returning from Britain, where officers are trialing the smartphone-sized devices.

The English police say cameras are more effective in securing convictions than verbal evidence.

They are also being used in the United States, France, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.

Police forces say offenders plead guilty earlier when confronted with video footage, cutting court costs and case preparation time.

The cameras also take the heat out of tense situations, once people realise they are being filmed, and the footage can be used to resolve complaints about police brutality.

The Corrections Department is about to begin a six-month trial of on-body cameras for staff in maximum and high-security areas at Auckland and Rimutaka prisons.

Dominion Post 12/2/14

 

No miscarriage of justice in Dotcom raid

Kim Dotcom's lawyers and the Crown are both considering appealing aspects of a Court of Appeal ruling that search warrants on Dotcom's Coatesville mansion were valid.

The warrants, executed by police on the properties of Dotcom and his associate Bram van der Kolk in January 2012, resulted in the seizure of some 135 electronic items.

The Court of Appeal has acknowledged there were "defects" in the warrants, but the warrants were legal.  The finding overturned a previous High Court decision that the warrants were invalid because they were not sufficiently specific. This was a major platform for Dotcom's fight against extradition to the United States to face a raft of charges relating to his Megaupload website.

Chief High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann had decided the warrants were not in sufficiently specific terms and "authorised the seizure of such very broad categories of items that unauthorised irrelevant material would inevitably be captured".

In overturning this decision, the Court of Appeal said a reasonable person receiving the search warrants would have understood what they related to.

The court acknowledged the defects in the warrants were "in form not in substance".

"The defects in these warrants were therefore not so radical as to require them to be treated as nullities."

However, the Court of Appeal dismissed another aspect of the appeal, lodged by the Attorney-General, relating to the seizure of some 150 terabytes worth of data from Dotcom and van der Kolk.

The Solicitor-General had given a direction that the seized items were to remain in the custody and control of the Commissioner of Police until further direction.

However, police permitted the FBI to remove clones of the items to the US. Justice Winkelmann ruled this was in breach of the Solicitor-General's direction and therefore unlawful, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

It also ordered a declaration that the removal of the clones from New Zealand was unlawful and that the police identify the clones that were removed.

New Zealand Herald 19/2/14

 

Failings hid police misconduct

Multiple failings by Southern District police let the criminal conduct of two officers go undiscovered after a car crash involving a police officer and a 17-year-old, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report has found.

However, the authority found no evidence of a conspiracy among the officers overseeing the investigation into the crash in Alexandra nine years ago.

The crash on a country road on July 14, 2005, involved an unmarked police ute driven by Senior Constable Neil Ford and a Honda car driven by Shane Cribb.

Constable Dairne Cassidy was appointed to investigate the crash.

Cribb was subsequently charged with careless driving causing injury. He was convicted in March 2006.

Since January 2006, the authority has received letters alleging that police unfairly and unjustly attached the blame for the crash to Cribb.

This was allegedly done either to pervert the course of justice to protect a fellow officer, or through an incompetent investigation that lacked thoroughness.

After a retrial was ordered in 2008 on the basis of new evidence, police decided not to offer any evidence and Cribb's conviction was overturned.

The police subsequently made investigations that resulted in Ford being convicted of perjury and Cassidy being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Both officers have since left the police.

In releasing today's report IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said the authority's investigation found multiple failings by the police.

These included a lack of adequate supervision and leadership, and a failure to critically examine evidence and remedy deficiencies identified during the investigation.

Police also failed to address concerns about the crash investigation in a timely manner.

Southern District commander Superintendent Andrew Coster said police acknowledged failure at several levels in the way the crash was initially managed and during the investigations that followed, which led to the wrongful conviction of Cribb.

"Police let Mr Cribb down badly, and to go some way to resolving this, we have apologised to him and provided compensation.

"Police accept that without the persistence of those members of the public who supported Mr Cribb, police would not have reinvestigated the case to uncover the truth about how the crash occurred.

"We also acknowledge that a number of poor decisions were made and that there was inadequate supervision and leadership in relation to this event. This was further compounded by an unacceptable lack of action over time.

"It goes without saying that staff involved could have done many things better, and lessons have been learnt since then."

Many changes in local policing had occurred since the crash, he said.

Southland Times 14/3/14

 

Police wrong not to charge officer who assaulted teen

Police were wrong not to charge an off-duty cop who used his baton to attack a youth he thought had smashed his letterbox, a review has found.

The Christchurch police officer, who has not been named, was not formally interviewed over the June 2011 incident and no criminal prosecution was pursued after an internal inquiry despite the 17-year-old victim's parents telling police they wanted some action taken against the officer.  Now, an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) review of the police investigation has identified shortcomings on the part of Christchurch Police.

"In investigating the police decision not to prosecute, the Authority found that the decision not to interview the officer as part of a criminal investigation was a departure from the proper process," IPCA said.

"The authority also found that the decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer because it was not in the public interest to do so was made without proper consideration of the prosecution guidelines."

In August 2011, the Professional Standards Manager, who was also the Employment Practices Manager for Christchurch Police, submitted a report to the Acting District Commander recommending that the officer should not be prosecuted as it would not be in the public interest.

He considered the Solicitor-General's prosecution guidelines in reaching his decision.

The Acting District Commander also approved the recommendation that it would not be in the public interest to prosecute the officer.

But today, the authority has found that the processes followed by Christchurch Police in reaching their decision not to prosecute the off-duty officer involved were unfair.

It further concluded that the decision suggests that the Professional Standards Manager had "prematurely decided" that a code of conduct investigation would be a sufficient resolution.

The IPCA concluded that any reconsideration of the prosecution decision at this late stage would be "an abuse of process given that the officer was informed he would not be charged prior to engaging in the employment process.”

Canterbury District Commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said, "We have taken careful note of the issues raised by the IPCA and have made sure these are reflected in improvements to our processes for dealing with complaints.

"We have already made changes to the way we handle investigations into officers as a result of this incident.”

Mr Knowles said the staff member who undertook the internal investigation had been spoken to.

"I believe the investigator and the then acting district commander acted with the best of intentions to ensure the matter was investigated appropriately.

"I am satisfied there was never any deliberate attempt to protect the officer or to minimise the seriousness of the offending.”

Mr Knowles said the officer at the centre of the allegations admitted striking the victim and had been subject to disciplinary action, but he remained a serving officer.

New Zealand Herald 20/3/14

 

Police trial powerful pepper spray

Police have announced the extension of a trial of a powerful new pepper spray that is six times more powerful than its predecessor.

The move follows the announcement that firearms and Taser training for an extra 700 police would also be introduced. The changes, to be introduced on 1 July, will see about 5700 police get M4 rifle, Glock pistol and Taser training, and a further 2100 receive Glock training only.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor welcomed the trials of stronger pepper sprays. "When police are facing assault from people on drugs or who have been drinking, pepper spray is a very good option for dealing with those people, who can be very resistant."

The announcement will extend the trials from the Bay of Plenty into the Eastern policing district covering Napier, Hastings and Gisborne.

The trials involve liquid and gel forms of the Sabre Red spray, which contains six times more capsicum than the one used at present, meaning it will work faster, and take longer to wear off.  It also contains a non-permanent natural red pigment, which aids aiming and placement of the spray.

National manager operational services Inspector Jason Ross said police favoured the gel-based spray that they believed was less affected by wind and other environmental conditions.

This meant less risk of cross-contamination. Also, due to its slightly thicker consistency, it had greater range, Mr Ross said.

Pepper spray had one of the lowest injury rates of all options used by police, Ross said.

Just five minor and three moderate injuries resulted from the use of Sabre Red in the Bay of Plenty trial, according to figures released under the Official Information Act.

The Dominion Post 20/3/14 & Otago daily Times 7/4/14

 

Prisons

Inmate complains to UN official

Prisoner Arthur Taylor has told a United Nations official that New Zealand prisons are regularly breaching inmates’ rights.

Taylor has also won an apology from the Corrections Department over his complaint regarding inmates being denied exercise at Auckland Prison.

He had complained to a department inspector that maximum security inmates at Auckland Prison were denied their one hour of open-air exercise on Fridays, in breach of the Corrections Act. After initially claiming the lockdown was not unlawful, the inspector sent Taylor a letter of apology.

On Friday, Taylor met Mads Andenaes of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and in an email to Radio New Zealand, Taylor said he told Mr Andenaes that New Zealand's laws protecting the rights of people in detention were regularly ignored by the authorities, often after political pressure. He urged the United Nations to press New Zealand to introduce an independent inspector of prisons.

Radionz.co.nz 30/3/14

 

Privacy

Privacy breaches 'milked for own gain'

The new privacy commissioner says there is a "disturbing" trend for people to use privacy breaches for their own gains.

Speaking before MPs at a select committee hearing in Parliament, commissioner John Edwards said that, in the rush to share and connect information online, companies and government agencies had not properly considered privacy.

He pointed to the 2011 ACC privacy breach in which a spreadsheet containing the details of 6000 sensitive clients was accidentally sent to an ACC claimant.

"Why do we need to email a spreadsheet containing details with 6000 people to 35 managers? Why do these managers all need this personal information?” he asked

However, he also criticised the accidental recipients of private information for seeking publicity or personal gain instead of returning it. "No right-minded member of the community, when they stumble across a wallet containing identifying details and thousands of dollars, would think they had a right to keep that."

The Dominion Post 21/2/14

 

High-tech blitz on shoplifters

Retailers are rolling out a new high-tech video surveillance system to capture thieves.

Auckland company Eyedentify has developed a "cloud-based" system, which allows retailers to share photos and footage of offenders with each other and the police in real-time.  Information sharing on this scale has never happened in the country before.

After a successful four-month test with a major retailer, the system will be rolled out in more than 100 stores in the Counties Manukau region of South Auckland from next month with a view to it being implemented in the rest of Auckland and Hamilton.

The company has stressed that it had been careful to ensure it adhered to privacy laws.

The Dominion Post 9/3/14

 

Officials look at violence disclosure law

Justice officials are looking at a new British law that allows women to find out whether their partner has a domestic violence conviction, with a view to copying it if it proves a success.

Anti-domestic violence campaigners say such a move would have a massive impact here. They say they are frustrated with privacy laws that mean in many cases they can't tell victims their new partners have a history of abuse.

The Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme is also known as Clare's Law after British woman Clare Wood, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009. It is aimed at preventing domestic violence by letting women know if their partners have a past record of violence.

The new law has been rolled out across the UK after a pilot in which 100 women were provided with information described as "potentially life-saving".

Justice Minister Judith Collins said while implementing such a scheme had not been discussed here, she was "very interested" in its effect in Britain and whether it reduced domestic violence levels.

"If it's significantly better than our law changes or it [results in] an improvement in the safety of women and children, then I'd be very happy to look at it."

The Government had already amended privacy laws to allow information to be disclosed to individuals if their life or health, or that of someone else, was threatened, Ms Collins said.

Labour's justice spokesman Andrew Little said his party would also look at such a measure though there would need to be safeguards, for example to stop people being wrongly tainted.

The Dominion Post 12/3/14

 

Discrimination, privacy and the disclosure of job candidate information

A recent decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal contains significant developments for employers over their obligations to withhold and disclose private information.

The decision, Waters v Alpine Energy Limited, has allowed an unsuccessful job candidate to view information regarding the recruitment process, including CV's of other candidates.

Mr Waters had applied for two positions with Alpine Energy, where he had previously worked for over 20 years. Both of Mr Waters' job applications were unsuccessful.

Mr Waters felt that he had been discriminated against due to his age, and commenced proceedings under the Human Rights Act 1993 alleging age discrimination.

Alpine Energy rejected his complaint and matters were taken to a Tribunal where an issue arose regarding the disclosure of evidence, in particular, Mr Waters sought information related to the candidates (including those that were successful), containing names, addresses, contact details, and other personal information including employment history, experience, and qualifications.

Alpine Energy refused to disclose certain documents on the basis that they were confidential information, not within the company's possession or control, or because the documents had already been destroyed.

The Tribunal has the power to regulate its own procedure however it sees fit, and has a broad discretion to receive any evidence that, in its opinion, would assist in dealing with the matter and ordered disclosure of the other candidates' information stating there was a public interest in preventing discriminatory conduct being hidden behind the cloak of confidentiality. The Tribunal's order also prevented Alpine Energy from redacting the names of the other candidates, as the Tribunal felt the information would be difficult to manage without names.

Alpine Energy had argued that providing such information would harm the free flow of evaluative material from job seekers and that these summaries may hold extremely sensitive and personal information, such as the results of criminal or credit checks, or personal health issues.

Employment law expert 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.

"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.

New Zealand Herald 7/3/14

 

Schools

St Heliers School finds solution to religious stand-off

Parents are said to be "very happy" over the decision by an Auckland school to remove religious education classes from its school day.  Religion will now be taught outside school hours for St Heliers School pupils who choose to attend.

The change followed two complaints to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and one official complaint to the school from parents in the past two months.

The Christian-based lessons discriminated against non-Christian families and should not be part of a secular school programme, the parents argued.

The Christian classes were taught to Year 1 and 2 pupils for three terms and involved storytelling, songs, drama and crafts.

Children who opted out were sent to other classrooms to work.

The complaints to the HRC claimed the classes were discriminatory by excluding children from their friends on the basis of religious belief for the period of the class, making the children feel ostracised and different.

The HRC complaint had gone to mediation, and a decision was not expected for some time.

New Zealand Herald 11/2/14

 

Welfare

Human Rights Viewpoint Sought on WINZ Shared Care Parenting Law

The office of the Humans Rights Commissioner has been requested to look into the way WINZ treats separated parents who share their children’s care equally.

A single father campaigning to change the WINZ approach to shared care has asked the Commissioner to consider section 70B of New Zealand’s Social Security Act in light of New Zealand’s Human Rights Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“If both parents receive a welfare benefit while their kids are young, WINZ treats one equally contributing parent as a full-time sole parent. The other equally contributing parent is treated as an unemployed adult and expected to seek full-time work,” said 50/50 campaign organiser Duncan Eddy.

“This unequal treatment of two people in the same situation seems to me to be a clear example of discrimination, as defined in the Humans Rights Act.  I’ve also asked the Commissioner to advise whether compelling single parents with toddlers to seek full-time work breaches New Zealand’s international human rights obligations,” said Mr Eddy.

In 2011 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child observed that New Zealand needs to intensify efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.

scoop.co.nz 27/3/14

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