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Using a pseudonym on correspondence to protect identity

An agency implemented a policy that required employees to include their names in their signature block when writing to clients. One employee with a unique name was concerned about the risk to herself and her family and sought approval to use her maiden name or a pseudonym.

The matter was reviewed first in the agency. The agency review identified that there was a legal requirement for certain letters to identify the author by surname. In addition, the use of a pseudonym was not feasible for system generated letters. The agency's review proposed several options that could have provided a solution to the employee's concerns, including having letters issued by another employee.

The employee sought review by the Merit Protection Commissioner as she thought using a pseudonym was the best option, submitting that the enterprise agreement provided that the agency would work towards ensuring that all employees have a choice about how they used their name in response to public enquiries, including in correspondence and face to face contact.

The Merit Protection Commissioner noted the provisions in the enterprise agreement regarding employee identification and the commitment in the agreement to working towards ensuring choice in these matters. However, the Merit Protection Commissioner accepted that, as a result of legal advice, employee choice could not always be accommodated. The Merit Protection Commissioner was also satisfied that, from an IT perspective, it was not possible for the employee to use a pseudonym on her signature block without having to change her identity across agency business systems. The employee was not interested in changing her name for work purposes.

In these circumstances, the Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the solution recommended by the agency review was fair and reasonable, as well as workable. The Merit Protection Commissioner recommended the agency confirm the actions under review.