Redactions of Employees Name Not Proper

Under Washington Public Records Act redactions must violate right to privacy

Identifying employee not highly offensive

Case Opinion: 140826-West-v-Port-of–Olympia

West v. Port of Olympia, 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 2097 (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 26, 2014)

Arthur West appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his Public Records Act (PRA) claim against the Port of Olympia. West’s claim is based on the Port’s redactions of a Port employee’s name, job title, job duties, and other identifying details from an investigative report relating to unsubstantiated allegations of governmental misconduct made against that employee. The Port made the redactions under the exemption in former RCW 42.56.230(2) for personal information that would violate an employee’s right to privacy.

We assume without deciding that the employee’s identity constituted personal information and that the employee had a privacy right in his or her identity in connection with the allegations. However, we hold that the Port’s redactions violated the PRA because disclosure of the identifying information would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person and therefore would not violate the employee’s right to privacy. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of West’s PRA claim. In addition, we award attorney fees to West on appeal and remand to the trial court to award West his attorney fees and costs below and to determine whether a statutory penalty is proper.

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