HR sent me a letter of congratulations for my promotion along with my new salary and job description in an intra-office envelope. The kind that is “closed” by a flimsy little string and re-used again and again.
Are you getting the picture? Intraoffice. Addressed to me. That’s it. The letter was not in a sealed envelope nor was it marked “personal and confidential”. In short, ANYBODY could open it, read it, place back in the envelope and placed on my desk. No one would be the wiser.
I was out of the office for one week on vacation when this was sent. I’m absolutely certain this was read by my colleagues. It is customary for us to read intra-office mail when someone is out just to see if there is something of import that needs to be handled.
When I got back from vacation and saw the flimsy envelope on my desk, I was horrified!!! I called up the HR person to ask why on earth would MY PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL information not be in a SEALED envelope?!!
The snooty little dumb [squidlip] copped an attitude and said in her Dept no one reads each other’s mail. She did not see anything wrong with what she did. I told her I didn’t care what happened in her Dept because my information was handled in a reckless fashion and I was certain that my colleagues now know my salary thanks to her unprofessionalism.
Do I have any legal recourse?
Shouldn’t HR be held accountable? This was not a mistake. She made a conscious decision to just throw my personal salary info in an intra-office envelope for anyone to read.
First, take a deep breath. Now eat some ice cream. Now take another deep breath. Feeling better? If not, have more ice cream, and possibly an entire bag (large) of Peanut Butter M&Ms. (Food is my go to for stressful situations, YMMV.)
Okay, first things first. Congratulations on the promotion and salary increase! That’s awesome! Good for you!
Now, forgive the HR person and let this go because this is not a big deal. Unless you are some sort of senior executive with an admin that routinely opens your mail, the HR person had no reason to believe someone else would open inter-office mail addressed to you. And even if you were a senior executive with an admin that routinely opens your mail, putting it in a sealed envelope and marking it “confidential” probably wouldn’t have prevented the admin from opening it unless you gave him specific instructions not to. Most executives, in my experience, expect their administrative assistants to handle confidential things all the time.
You have no idea if anyone did open it unless they tell you that they did. Which they didn’t. So assume they didn’t. But what if they did? And now someone else in your office knows your salary? Then what?
Then they know your salary. Presumably they know you got a promotion, and presumably, they know a raise comes with that. Unless you know that your salary is unfair because the CEO is your dad or something, your exact salary isn’t going to come as a shock to anyone. You were X before, and so are three other people in your department, so now that you’re a Senior X, everyone is going to assume you’re making 5 percent or so more than the X people. It’s not a big deal.
Frankly, if I ran the world, I’d have everyone’s salaries posted on the company intranet. It makes it difficult to discriminate on the basis of race/gender/whatever when information is public.
But even if I was a huge proponent of maintaining management power by keeping people in the dark about salaries, this would still not be a big deal. Just ask HR to use a sealed envelope in the future, or join the 21st century and send you information via email. If you raise a ruckus on this, you’re likely to get a big crazy mark next to your virtual file. This will have an effect on your career at this company forever more. So, let it go.
There’s also no legal recourse because unless the letter had health information or your social security number on it, there’s no law protecting it. Your company can legally put your salary on a billboard if they’d like. They don’t, and they won’t, so don’t worry about that.
And once again, congrats on the promotion.