OPEA Fights for State Employee Privacy

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association helped push a bill that would protect state employees’ birth dates over its first hurdle during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.

Senate Bill 1753 by Senator Debbie Leftwich passed the committee in a unanimous vote. The title was taken off the bill to continue working on the language.

Leftwich filed the bill after an official opinion by Attorney General Drew Edmondson that public employees’ birth dates were presumed to be open records. The opinion said birth dates are only closed when the agency proves that releasing them would violate an employee’s privacy.

OPEA has disagreed with the opinion and supported the measure believing state employees could be jeopardized by the release.

“We have many employees who are engaged in law enforcement activitiess, child welfare cases, determining benefits and many other occupations in which a disgruntled person or former offender might wish to retaliate,” said OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger. “State employees should have their personal information protected.”

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association told the Oklahoman: “That the difference between public and private employees–a portion comes off the top of my salary to pay their salary. I deserve to know who is on the payroll.”

OPEA completely disagrees. “Just because Mr. Thomas is a tax payer does not mean he has the right to invade the privacy of public employees,” Barger said. “State employees are citizens who have not given up their right to privacy just because of their profession.”

OPEA will continue to support this bill as it moves through the process.

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