Memory sticks - don't forget them!

Posted: 20th March 2015

SecretsShort of searching members of staff, it may appear that there is little an employer can do to prevent memory sticks being used for wholesale breaches of confidentiality. Not so - one company recently had the satisfaction of winning over £290,000 in damages from a former senior salesman who violated its trust.

The salesman had worked for the company for almost 14 years and was responsible for a portfolio of clients worth £3 million annually. Following his resignation, it was discovered that he had downloaded swathes of highly confidential customer information and used it for his own commercial benefit. After his departure, he had also breached non-solicitation clauses in his contract.

Ordering him to pay the company £290,099, the High Court found his evidence unreliable and evasive. He had deliberately and dishonestly sought to cover his tracks and his sworn statements to the Court were demonstrably untrue. He was also ordered to pay almost £70,000 in legal costs.

There are common law rights which may help to protect employers in these situations but it is far better to have specific provisions in a formal contract of employment which not only create rights of action when things go wrond but - more important - form a clear warning and deterrent to those tempted to steal information.

Contractual provisions can also make it simpler to monitor data and computer use and to check for evidence of theft or preparations for treacherous moves! Contact us for help with prevention or cure if you're an employer. We can also assist employees threatened with action in these circumstances.