Man gets employee Social Security numbers with Sears purchase

When a man recently bought three filing cabinets at a Sears clearance sale, he got a lot more of a “gift with purchase” than he’d expected — hundreds of sensitive employee files. These Pandora’s boxes of potential identity fraud contained photos, birth certificates, Social Security numbers and information concerning terminations and employee theft.

Fortunately for these compromised employees, this man was not an identity thief. He called Sears over eight times to try and report the mistake, but received no response. When a Sears representative finally returned his call, he was told to drop the files outside of a store loading dock.

This sounds like a scene from a bad gangster movie — but it was real, and not an isolated incident. This particular one happened in Chicago, but it could happen in Florida or anywhere. Banana Republic also once made a similar snafu: a couple ordered a necktie online, and instead received a dossier of sensitive employee information in the mail. This surprise package contained not only Social Security numbers, but also tax returns and sensitive medical and legal information.

In reality, the privacy of employee information is highly unregulated within the private sector. Federal employees enjoy many laws protecting their secure personal information, but employees of private companies may have no clear-cut rights if a breach of security occurs.

If you have had your private information compromised by negligence in your workplace, this may be a case of premises liability. You do not have to suffer personal injuries to experience a premises problem like inadequate security. Identity theft resulting from security negligence can result in losses, damages and legal fees. Even if the information breach does not lead directly to identity theft, many time-consuming and stressful precautions may need to be taken, including even changing one’s Social Security number.

Undoubtedly, the affected employees in these two cases experienced pain and suffering, and deserve compensation for the privacy violation they experienced. Yet without clear employee privacy laws in place, law enforcement officials may have their hands tied. A premises liability lawyer may be needed for obtaining justice.

Huffington Post, “Report: Sears Sells Chicago Man Cabinets Full Of Confidential Employee Information: Report” Caroline Fairchild, Aug. 01, 2013