Firms file injunction over wage data release

The information manager for the Immigration Department is facing court action over a decision to release wage data for more than 20,000 work permit holders to the media, following an open records request.

Ernst & Young, Maples FS, KPMG and Butterfield Bank are seeking a judicial review in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands asking for the decision to release the information to be quashed.

The four companies argue that the data, which contains job title, start date, nationality and salary information, though not the names, of work permit holders, is personal and commercially sensitive.

They are seeking a final prohibitive injunction preventing any further release of the information and a mandatory injunction requiring the information manager to reveal to whom the information has previously been disclosed.

The court filing states the release of the information was illegal because “the decision maker misdirected itself in law by making the decision.” It adds that the decision was unreasonable and irrational, stating, “The decision was plainly wrong and no reasonable decision maker could have come to it.”

The Cayman Compass and blogger Kerry Tibbetts, who runs a Facebook group “I am Caymanian Where are My Rights,” are named in separate court documents as having received the data.

Ms. Tibbetts was served with an injunction prohibiting her from publishing or disseminating copies of the data.

The injunction also prohibits her from revealing the content of the spreadsheet, including salaries, nationalities, job titles and start dates of employees on work permits.

Ms. Tibbetts was also required to remove screenshots of the data from Facebook, and disclose the identities of anyone to whom she had disclosed the data.

A separate injunction has been served on the Immigration Department FOI manager preventing further release of the spreadsheet or the information it contains.

That injunction prevents “anyone with notice of this order” from disseminating or publishing the information in any newspaper, television broadcast, cable, satellite program or public computer network.”

The injunction applies “until further order or such time as these proceedings have been finally determined.”
A writ of summons has also been issued against Ms. Tibbetts and “persons unknown” seeking damages for “breach of confidence” in connection with the publication of some of the data. The writ also seeks a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from publishing aspects of the information described as confidential.

The Compass had asked under FOI for information contained in work permit applications as part of planned reporting on broad national trends in wages and employment.

Ms. Tibbetts is understood to received the same data after making a similar FOI request. She said she could not comment on the court action at this time.

David R. Legge, publisher and editor of the Cayman Compass, said the newspaper had never planned to publish the spreadsheet in its entirety or in any manner that could lead to the identification of individual employees at individual companies.

“Screenshots of our own employee data were also posted on Facebook,” said Mr. Legge, “and we are taking legal counsel to determine what options may be open to us.”

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  1. Why would any company be upset about the salaries they are paying work permit holders? I’m sure its above 5 per hour. It would help young Caymanians to strive to succeed to achieve in school. Is it not bragging rights that one gets a substantial amount of salary by the show of the car you drive or the house you live in?The clothes you wear the jewelry you wear etc.etc.?

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  2. I must agree with David on his comments and further say that there has been hanky panky sometimes with these work permits; whereby a person application says house help or handy man, and they are receiving the salary of a CEO.
    Nothing to hide….then what is wrong with being transparent.

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  3. I think they are asking for a review because the FOI law says you can’t disclose personal data, or words to that effect. If you are OK with everyone knowing what you are paid, what about medical records, would you be happy with that sent out to anyone who asked? It’s all the same, personal info, if these things go unchallenged it becomes OK. The FOI is still new to a lot of businesses and knowing exactly what can be disclosed is important to establish imo.

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  4. What salary you are paid is personal business between you and your employer both of whom have the right to privacy. If there are expats or Caymanians that make large salaries that is none of anyone’s else’s business. I’d bet that if an FOI request when out the required the salaries of Caymanian Employees to be made available to the public, all hell would break lose. These frivolous FOI request are going to end up costing millions to the CIG and private companies. People that request them should have to bear some of the financial burdon of producing the information.

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  5. Okay. The companies are not happy and want this information hidden. I can see why. BUT,
    a) did they intimate that the information was commercially sensitive when they put the information onto the work permit applications? If they didn’t – tough!
    b) are Erst Young, Maples FS, KPMG and Butterfield bank that stupid that they didn’t realise that information held by a public authority MUST be released unless there is very good grounds for doing so?
    c) Do these organisations think their wage structures are really unknown to their competitors?
    Okay, until the matter is heard then it cannot be publicised by the Compass and Ms Tibbetts but, if I were her, despite a court order, when they ask who it was disseminated to, having received the information in good faith from a public authority, I would be telling them to go take a jump.
    What I am really struggling with here is why Ms Tibbetts has been portrayed as a bad person for doing something she is entitled in law to do.

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  6. This is much bigger than we think, this will go to the court and the big boys win, and they will take it to the LA for a bigger debates on the freedom of information act. Then politicians and the big boys will have more protection under the law. If this is left wide open they can get in real trouble. If you want to see how the freedom of information works, in Georgia they’re building a new football stadium, a investigation was started and a lot of people and politicians were found to be corrupt in the deals. We need to know what is going on in the Islands.

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