This is 100% on you. It's hard to answer this question without specifics, but it strikes me as very important to differentiate between an accident or mistake in the sense of "oops, I did that by unintentionally" versus misconduct, as in "this was against policy and I deliberately did it anyways" regardless of whether you knew about the policy or had a good reason to do it or not. Any tax or benefit records, any survey or census records if I access them without good reason its a firing offence. Thats when it gets tricky. Well, you certainly can do that, but its one hell of a risk, and a continuation of poor ethics. a friend sent en email containing critical information and documents about a particular person to a person who wasn't that person. Yeah, I thought it was from her personal cell too. *(assuming that you did so)* She covers a totally different subject area so it never even crossed my mind that her career would be an additional conflict. This is so well said. The damage from most leaks isnt visible until much later, but it can be massive. Because a) LW broke confidentiality. It also wasnt illegal to share it, because it was about a program or something that has now publicly been announced, so this doesnt even fall under the criminal aspect brought up in the original comment. The government takes this stuff very very seriously. The OP actually committed a fairly serious breach. Its understandable that you feel betrayed by your coworker, but she probably felt obligated to say something. Im assuming the LW plead their case and filled in relevant information. Since this incident, Ive taken steps like [saving journalist friends as contacts in a different phone, deleting my Slack channel, etc. Spek raised a good point- find out what your HR policy is so you know what to be prepared for in an interview. Unfortunately there are certain positions where you dont get a second chance when the error knowingly breaking a rule. On the weekend, I was sending a personal email to a friend. quite a lot of people are going to feel as though youre making them an accomplice in your bad behavior. Honestly, I got the impression that the writer was on the younger end, just in their self-reported actions and reactions. Based on it happening before GSA was born, this most likely happened on a land line. A while back I had a coworker/friend who created a memo, for our company A, all based on publicly available information, along with suggestions and comments by the coworker. This has to be, and often is, done formally, with agreements to give something secret in advance so the journalist can prep a story for later, when its OK to share. I didnt know how to say it without seeming to condone the breach. Is it FOUO though? I get that people can learn from their mistakes, but this could be an indicator of a lack of proper framework, and perhaps a boss wouldnt want to risk it. You simply let the sender know you've received it by accident, then they can rectify their mistake and you can delete the email. Exactly this. You made yourself very vulnerable, your mentor knew that, and unfortunately, youre now bearing the consequences. You believe your friend is trustworthy but, wow, the optics of sharing with a friend who is a journalist are really bad, and . I am very sure they didnt want to fire him. If that puts it in perspective. This is mostly a matter of describing your motivation appropriately, and in this respect "At that time, I did not realize" does a better job of conveying that your basis of judgment has changed in the course of that experience than a mere "I did not realize" would. Thank you for pointing this out! Have you learned from your mistake? Of course, if this happens regularly there is more chance of human error being made so it's always best to use a mailing program. Yeah, thats a good point. Also ratty. How does this make it any better or worse..? They are designed to trick the recipient . OP, its worth examining whether trying to assuage your guilt by sharing this with your mentor, rather than with some outside person who doesnt touch on your industry, was a version of getting post-mortem permission. Even though shes made the same mistake 2 times). Browse other questions tagged, Start here for a quick overview of the site, Detailed answers to any questions you might have, Discuss the workings and policies of this site. On other occasions, you might accidentally receive a confidential email with information meant for one person (or a few people) you know. But if you act that way about a mistake at a previous job, I think people might worry about the same behavior in the future. It was a couple of telling E-mails that helped bring down Bear Stearns with the subprime loan mess crashing . We see people destroy themselves with guilt, and so we try to tell people theres no need to feel guilty or ashamed. Your coworker then followed proper procedure when learning of this data breach- their actions were not ratting you out, their actions were following proper protocol for what an employee who is working at a company that frequently deals with sensitive data is tasked with doing once they learn of a data breach. So, either way my point remains. Thats the one that needs to learn to keep things to herself? When an employer says something is confidential, take it seriously If a breach is proved, the employee may be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages Howard Levitt Published Aug 01, 2019 Last updated Oct 28, 2019 4 minute read Join the conversation I question that there are no details about your Monday meeting with HR here. Yep, we regularly are reminded about FERPA requirements (academia) and staff members have gotten in hot water for not promptly picking up student transcripts from the printer (for instance). But it could be that GSAs dad had a code/password to verify it was actually him and the caller forgot to verify that first. Sharing HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL info with a JOURNALIST? A few weeks ago I worked on a medical chart for A Big Rockstar, but not only do I get fired if I tell anyone which one, I get fired if I open up a single page of his chart that I cant explain, if asked, what the exact and specific work-related reason for opening that page was. never actually say the words Gross Misconduct. Assuming OP was correct and journalist friend never would have said anything, OP could have pretended it never happened. Its the only way they can maintain control of the information. This was all public information, but the original report was work product of Company A even if it had originally been created by the coworker. So I guess maybe it is a generational thing? Sometimes that PHI belongs to people I know. High-profile thing the president wanted and agency employees opposed isnt going to happen Basically, one of the key ways that spies get information is by social engineering picking up seemingly minor information through friendly chat that they can then combine together to make more. One of my friends is working on projects that she cannot list on her resume now that shes applying to jobs and I only know that because Im looking at it and she told me shes frustrated because she has good work that she can quantify but cant talk about yet. If it comes across like you dont think it was a big deal or that you blame the coworker for alerting your employer, thats not going to go over well. Weve all made mistakes. OP, Im sure in your excitement you truly didnt think there was anything wrong with telling your friend, someone you trust implicitly to remain discreet. Having a natural, human reaction doesnt mean shes in the wrong field. Confidentiality is not just an issue in communications. Ideally. It happens. Im not feeding a narrative, Im expressing my opinion. Not advising you to lie, but you can present the circumstances in as flattering manner as you like. Like, its so obviously wrong that people dont even talk about it. Is there a single-word adjective for "having exceptionally strong moral principles"? We got [Celebrity Y] to promote a big public health initiative! So for instance when I got an emergency grant from a water supplier for a woman with no income, there wasnt any risk that telling my wife would identify the woman. "It is likely not private if the employee used the employer . Agreed. For what its worth, one thing I noticed from your letter is language that sounds very social, discussing your trust in your friend, being ratted out by your mentor, not being given a second chance, and so on. For most cases in the US, I'd expect it to be legal. Re-evaluating my original comment, Id still consider lying if attempts to explain the firing in interviews end up in disaster. I just want to remind people that it happened. How to answer question on moving to another country for job? I want to push back hard on this, the coworker is not a rat. I actually think this was a little rough of her mentor. I dont think you have to be Catholic.). I think thats misunderstanding the severity of why what OP did was not ok. Theres any number of non-confidential matters that are embargoed prior to their public announcement. I agree. One of my favorite shows had a plotline about a sibling not liking someone not breaking doctor confidentiality. Once you told your coworker, you dragged her out there on the plank with you. they dont owe it to you to offer that opportunity, That reminds me of the guys who say, I know I cheated on you, but I want a second chance.. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. December 15, 2009, 1:05 PM. Oh, so LW cant keep a secret from her reporter friend or her coworker, but were ragging on the coworker for not keeping LWs secret? While the 911 caller believes criminal charges are appropriate, that is a matter for the district attorney to decide. Was this alone enough to be fired, or is there a history? Having said that, as a hiring manager, if you were able to talk to me about how this one-time error in judgment caused a deep shift in thinking and was a critical pivot point in your professional development I would hear you out. Its so very context and field dependent. +100 to this. e.g. Ill add one point: You dont know that she didnt leak it. Rules are there because its so easy to do that thing that feels harmless, and sometimes nobody gets hurt.. Yes, this was a fireable offence, but Im less interested in the nuances of violating confidentiality than in the bigger picture question I have done something where I really screwed up how do I move on? (Someone above mentioned someone bringing a gun to work (Dwight? People leak or share things to journalists they know all the time, with agreements by those journalists on how to share it. For context I work with PHI covered under HIPAA for my job. Unless things have changed since I was in j-school (which is a possibility), off-the-record arrangements are basically the journalistic equivalent of a pinky swear. My guess is that the LW was fired for a first offense because they refused to take responsibility for their breach. But I think in order to talk about this with future employers, youve got to take more responsibility for it. I dont know if it was to avoid track-covering or to prevent retaliation, but that was a specific part of the procedure. can you get fired for accidentally sending confidential information. Thats why they told you the information was confidential. Egress Software Technologies Ltd. Find out what you should do when a misdirected email lands in your inbox. Share information about a Harry Potter book before it being officially released? (i hope this story still makes sense with all identifying details purged, but hopefully its clear from context uh why i am purging all those details smdh) While it clearly appears LW would not have done any of this, the regulations and policies are written to protect the employer and coworker from any potential negative actions. Coworker would let the other authorities figure that out. Yeah, we dont want to go down the road if encouraging the OP to continue acting unethically that will ensure she stays unemployed. OP, take a deep breath. An in-person meeting might be more appropriate if you accidentally sent information about your plans to find another job to your manager. You arent entitled to a second chance to screw this up. In most reporting policies i am aware of it would be considered tipping off and get the person reporting in trouble. Accidental disclosure is the unintentional release or sharing of sensitive information. How did you talk to your boss about the slack channel full of journalists? Were you able to correct the factual mistake in context, and what phrasing did you use? The consequences are serious and could have legal implications if youre representing a government or publicly traded company. The above divulged details to a journalist about allocation and resources they should not know about. as a manager, should I not wear a childless shirt in my off-hours? Alison, I really liked your advice, because it can apply to any situation where the person has truly done something egregious but has to move on. about your coworker reporting you, betrayed and hard done by, is the way your employer feels about you. Lack of integrity. If you embezzle from the company and tell a coworker who then reports it, the mistake is embezzlement, not telling a coworker about it. Its no worse than our organization doesnt protect classified information no matter how badly an employee disregards policies. Don't be me, is what I'm saying I guess! However, I will agree that, per OPs statement, the information appears to be unsolicited and doesnt seem like it would have been considered a records request (who knows, we dont have a lot of information and what we have has been proven to be distorted). She broke a very real and important rule. Fortunately, I was not fired for the mistake, but my employer did call me on the carpet for a very serious discussion on why we cant share any information that we only have access to because we work there, regardless of how sensitive or not sensitive we think it is on a case-by-case basis. They would definitely see any mention of confidentiality breach as a huge red flag and drop OP from the hiring process at once. Later the coworker left the company and at company B was asked to write a similar report for the new company. Then the second paragraph said Do not release this information to anyone outside of the office because the press are not to know about these changes until the morning of the event. Thats another instant firing, even if the information isnt ever misused. I think its fair for you to be upset that you didnt have another chance, but also understandable that your employer felt it couldnt give you one. BUT, that shouldnt excuse leaking things, and theres a big difference between a spouse or a journalist, though I can understand why it can still be difficult. Ive been in the position of having the relevant information, and even if its hard, you just cant tell your journalist friends unless youre okay with them using it: its what they do, and its not fair to ask them not to. For me, it was like OK, she shared embargoed information something she shouldnt have. You did a dumb, impulsive thing and when you took time to consider it, you did the right thing. So while the OP can feel what the OP feels, the sooner she can get rid of any hostile feelings about the coworker, the better it will be for the OP. You put your coworker in an awful spot by telling her this information. And there was no social media then, so 100+++ times that now. I gossip too much, including at work. But would the government do that? I understand the issue had to be reported, but why this way ? Its understandable youre upset, but I wouldnt have given you a second chance either. A true 100% owning of what you did. Sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise. Had OP not made the initial mistake and then compounded it by telling the coworker, shed still be employed. ^^. Sometimes he wasnt working on confidential stuff, and he could come home and geek out over what he was doing if he wanted. He and my mother kept their noses clean. They sound far more serious than what happened. Yes, if you're sending a mass email, BCC makes sure no-one else sees each other's emails and therefore reduces the risk of a breach. I will add that I consider neither my cats nor Jesus to be imaginary; the connection was someone you wouldnt get in trouble for sharing with. Hopefully there still something to be said for that! Its a big difference if you sit together at a bar, your friend mentions chocolate teapots and you say oh, this morning I was asked to design a llama-themed one before you realize that you really shouldnt have said that. Also in any governmental job or any job governed by many laws and regulations (such as medicine, law, dentistry, etc) they are laws and compliance regulations in place that must be abided by and every employee had to sign such an agreement usually yearly but at least upon hiring. You can never rely on people to be 100% trustworthy, no matter how long youve known them. I had not thought about this issue via this lens, but I think youre 100% right. They fell prey to the Its just a quick peek and it wont hurt anybody fallacy. As the other commenter noted, this could have been a very serious offence considering you were working for the government. You can bounce back! The enforcement has to be based on the idea that the leak was damaging. While they may not state why someone was fired, Ive found it pretty common to state that someone was fired (or laid off etc) and if the person is eligible for rehire. Dont blame the co-worker for ratting you out. So, the implication is actually the opposite of giving your feelings 100% credence its saying, separate how you feel from what you do. It can bring vital information to the public who have a right to know. Resist the temptation to gossip about fellow employees and don't express your disdain for your. That all strikes me as stuff someone quite young and without strong professional and personal boundaries acts. It would have been better if she had told you first that she was going to tell someone I ran across an old letter recently where someone had negotiated themselves into a poor position, and hit on dragging some subordinates out there on the plank with her. If people really need jobs, they need to act like they really need jobs. Those questioners would hammer her on this. Plus you might be doing them a massive favour when it comes to catching a data breach early. Like its going to be easier to find a job because she has the integrity to say she got fired. If I were in the coworkers position, I would need to do the same thing. Me too in Government. Yeah, if the LW is in the US or things operate the same way in their country, theres no point in trying to lie or even waffle about what happened. 1) Broke a rule Loved your opening act for Insolent Children, btw. Personal info is never OK to share with anyone, or things that could lead to recognizing a person if someone happens to know that person (and you never know who knows who). As in I am so, so sorry! I dont think we fired anyone but the need for absolute confidentiality was reiterated. Is there a solution to add special characters from software and how to do it. Sure but I think its highly unlikely that someone at OPs level would have access to that. How exciting! and I started reading the details from the email out loud to him. If you live in a place where its illegal to shoot guns into the air, and you shoot a gun into the air and the bullet does not actually kill anyone in its fall, you have still broken the law and placed others in danger. In a couple of hours, the news agencies were calling the federal government, to verify the news. No, shes a person with ethics who plays by the rules. But how do I explain this story to future employers? [Well-known bad person] is going to be fined/punished/arrested. What if there was another leak and someone found out that OP had told Coworker that she had leaked info previously, but didnt report it as she was supposed. broke a rule can be trivial, even if its technically a firing offense. It wasnt particularly kind to her friend, either. Im glad that youve had time to think about it and can own the mistake, thats the most important part when we mess up. You added nuance that I hadnt thought about. But folks with strong confidentiality duties often dont disclose the confidential parts of the information to their trusted confidants or partners.