Last night, I went out for dinner with my "girls" - present and former employees of the office I used to work at. One of my good friends (a present clerk) invited one of the other girls she still works with, and with whom I used to work before I got a promotion. She's known for being a bit on the quirky side, a little socially awkward but nice on the whole. She hadn't seen me since I left the old office, so because I'd had my accident and she hadn't seen me in a while, she wanted to come along. Fine, the more the merrier. She used to drive me a little nuts at work, but on a personal level she was nice - if a little quirky.
We were discussing the new class of trainees who have just moved into the office where I work - I will be (re)training with them, since my "on the job training" a season earlier was interrupted by The Accident. Two of those people are former clerks we were also close to. When I mentioned the name of one of the trainees, our odd one out exclaimed, "Oh! She's one of our confidential cases." In the middle of a crowded restaurant. On a Friday night, where any (or many!) of our several hundred coworkers could have been present.
I work in an environment where confidentiality is integral to everything we do. "Confidential" cases are cases not kept in the same district office as the district where the person lives (or works), because they are either current or former employees, are family members or friends of employees, etc. There is usually a special worker assigned to these caseloads.
This person is a temporary clerk, and was the dining companion of someone who has a confidential case somewhere in the district (I couldn't tell you where, even if I knew!), along with two permanent employees of our workplace. I'm not sure what the confidentiality provisions are for temporary employees, but permanent employees are required to sign a confidentiality agreement and adhere to those provisions or risk termination and other, pretty heavy penalties.
She's lucky she was among people who aren't backstabbing bigmouths, but I did point out to her later, somewhat privately, that she needed to be careful about saying things like that in public. I told her she had nothing to fear from any of us who were there, but to consider the venue and who could be in hearing range.
I'm afraid I left her a little worried about her job, but I assured her that at least from me and from the other current employee in our company she had nothing to fear. I know other coworkers who would betray her at the drop of a hat and cost her her job, but I'm not one of those. I didn't mean to hurt her feelings, but at the same time, I felt it was important for her to remember she was out in public and should definitely not be bringing up something like that as a topic of conversation in a public place, no matter how crowded. Not to be paranoid, but you just never know who's around. And "confidential" means you do not discuss something. At all. I do not discuss anything related to my cases outside of work. Period. The consequences are too great.