Thursday, January 30, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Requests for City Email Addresses (1/30)

Question: Are city employees’ work email addresses public information?

Answer: Someone asks you for a list of your city employees’ work email addresses. Questions begin to run through your head. Can you ask why the person wants the email addresses? Are the email addresses public information? Do you have to check with your employees first? Did you remember to close the garage door this morning?

The answers to most of your questions can be found in the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and in a data-practices advisory opinion provided by the commissioner of the Department of Administration. (You’re on your own regarding the garage door.)

So here’s the scoop. No, you can’t ask why the person wants the email addresses. If the information is public data, you have to provide it regardless of why the person wants it. And yes, the email addresses are public information. The Data Practices Act provides a list of specific information about public employees that is public data including a public employee’s “work location.” The commissioner has advised (IPAD 97-049) that “in the electronic age, a public employee’s e-mail address is also part of the employee’s work location.” The commissioner noted that “an employee’s e-mail simply provides another means, in a different medium, for the public to communicate with its government.” Finally, no, you don’t have to check with your employees before releasing their work email addresses, but it’s probably a good practice to make sure that city employees know what information about them is public data.

For more information, see the LMC information memo, Public Personnel Data.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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