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New York Employers Now Required To Advise Employees of Information Technology Security Breaches

By Susan M. Corcoran and Richard I. Greenberg
  • September 14, 2005

To provide employees with protection from identity theft in the workplace, numerous state legislatures have enacted legislation requiring employers to notify employees of any breach of security protocols for private information contained in an employer's computer systems.  In August 2005, the New York State Legislature amended The New York General Business Law to impose such an obligation on New York employers, effective on or about December 9, 2005.

With a limited exception for an ongoing criminal investigation, any person or business which maintains "private information" on a computer system must notify the "owner or licensee" of such information of any system breach immediately following discovery. The statute provides alternatives for providing notice, however, under all alternatives notice must be given in a manner to ensure that it reaches each affected individual.   While "private information" does not include publicly available information, it does include social security numbers, drivers' license or non-drivers' identification numbers, and financial account numbers.  Thus, almost every human resources information system maintained by a New York employer contains "private information."

To comply with this legislation, if a New York employer believes that an unauthorized employee or third party has breached the security of a computer system containing any "private information" (such as social security numbers), the employer must immediately notify all affected employees of the breach.   New York employers can no longer take a "wait and see" position as they investigate the scope of any potential breach.  Failure to provide prompt notice can result in injunctive relief, liability for actual losses suffered by an employee who did not receive notice, and if a court finds an employer knowingly or recklessly failed to provide notice, a civil penalty of up to $150,000.

For more information about the new law, or other matters pertaining to employer obligations with regard to employee information, please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you regularly work, or partners Susan M. Corcoran, (914) 328-0404, CorcoraS@jacksonlewis.com; or Richard I. Greenberg, (212) 545-4000, GreenbeR@jacksonlewis.com

©2005 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at www.jacksonlewis.com.

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