According to a new report from ABC News, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) instructed employees to handle records that included people’s sensitive and personal information while at home.
Celena Jones, a former VEC employee, told ABC that employees were told to take home potentially sensitive personal data for overtime work. This included taking home documents containing the person’s social security numbers, birthdays, home addresses, workplaces, salaries, online passwords, and other personal information.
“Anybody could have written somebody’s name, photocopied something,” Jones told 8News.
The latest revelation about the VEC’s handling of sensitive material follows an 8News investigation into the situation after a Henrico woman discovered she was inadvertently sent a 90-page document dump from the VEC that included all or partial social security numbers for 16 people across several states.
After seeing 8News reports on the VEC’s handling of personal information, Jones said she is not surprised that it happened, saying that the VEC did not explicitly instruct employees charged with handling initial-level claims and appeals to meticulously review every page they were sent from external organizations, like legal teams or employment verification groups.
“We were supposed to, like, quickly thumb through it [documents sent from outside groups], but not, like, read and find out what’s going on,” Jones said.
In response to the allegations, VEC Spokesperson Joyce Fogg said all staff “Are background checked and trained on security procedures, to include protecting customer information. Other employees that are home-based, do have access to customer information and as trusted agents of the Commission are required to adhere to security protocols.”
employees were instructed, “To take work home … for a limited time during the pandemic.” However, “Those administrative activities were discontinued last year.”
The VEC has been having a rough go of it for a while. Governor Youngkin promised an overhaul of the agency on the campaign trail, and the transition over to the VEC’s new IT system late last year caused a data error that mistakenly informed thousands of applicants that the agency overpaid them. Another instance saw the agency agree to pay $200,000 in legal fees to organizations that led a 2021 lawsuit over delays in employment claims processing. (RELATED: Virginia Employment Commission Agrees to Pay $200,000 in Legal Fees After End of Lawsuit over Unemployment Insurance Claims Backlog)
Hopefully, whatever overhaul Youngkin has planned for the agency can be implemented soon, before any thing else happens.