Office of Open Records Orders Release of Dates of Birth of State Employees; State Doesn’t Appeal

Reporter Dylan Purcell, on behalf of the Philadelphia Inquirer, asked the Pennsylvania Office of Administration (“OA”) to provide him with a list state employees and salaries.  The OA granted the request, but only provided Purcell with the employees’ years of birth, rather than a full birth date including the day and month born.  Purcell appealed to the Office of Open Records (“OOR”), arguing that the dates of birth of state employees are public records.  The OOR agreed with Purcell, and issued a final determination ordering the OA to provide Purcell with the state employees’ full dates of birth.

The OA asserted that the dates of birth of state employees should not be disclosed because: 1) all individuals have a constitutional right to privacy in their date of birth, 2) the release of dates of birth would jeopardize the personal safety of state employees, and 3) dates of birth are personal financial information exempted from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law (“RTKL”).

The final determination, Purcell v. Pennsylvania Office of Administration, AP 2010-0845 (OOR 10/29/10) summarizes prior appellate decisions, legislative history, and OOR final determinations that address whether dates of birth of public employees are public records.  The OOR dismissed the OA’s constitutional argument because no appellate court in Pennsylvania has held that individuals have a constitutional right to privacy in their dates of birth. In response to the OA’s arguments that state employees may fall victims to physical violence or stolen identities, the OOR noted that the OA failed to cite a single instance where a public employee was a victim of a crime, including identity theft, due to the release of their date of birth.  Also, the General Assembly debated identity theft, privacy, domestic violence and stalking before it voted down a provision which would have exempted dates of birth from public disclosure.  Finally, although the OOR deemed the issue waived, it noted that the RTKL does not define dates of birth as personal financial information.

An examination of the Commonwealth Court’s public docketing system reveals that the OA has not appealed the final determination.

Disclaimer:  This blog is maintained by the members of Nauman Smith’s Media and Right-to-Know Law practice group.  The members of this practice group represent both: 1) media entities, individuals and corporations seeking access to public records, and 2) local municipalities seeking to comply with the law.  THIS BLOG IS NOT MEANT TO BE USED AS LEGAL ADVICE.  The purpose of this blog is to provide educational material for individuals interested in Pennsylvania’s open records law, commonly referred to as the “Right-to-Know Law” or “RTKL”.  The opinions expressed by the individual members of the practice group are solely their own, and do not reflect the opinions of Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall, LLP, or the practice group as a whole.

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