A recent ruling in the High Court serves as a reminder to all business owners, especially recruiters, of how important it is to ensure that contracts of engagement with employees and other personnel include strong provisions protecting your confidential information. For those in the recruitment sector this means your databases of candidates and clients – such information being the lifeblood of your business.
The facts – OCS provided aircraft cleaning services to British Airways at Heathrow, that contract was lost to a competing company, Omni Serv which took over supply of the services and transferred OCS’ staff under TUPE regulations.
Just before the transfer OCS became aware that several of their employees had transmitted OCS confidential documents and information to their home email addresses and passed them to third parties, in breach of restrictions in their employment contracts and the duty of confidence. OCS immediately applied to the High Court for an interim injunction prohibiting the employees from disclosing the information, which the Court ordered. The order also imposed an obligation not to destroy any evidence or to disclose the existence of the order.
Shortly afterwards, one of the defendants disclosed to his manager, a trusted colleague, the fact that an order had been made and then, over several days, proceeded to delete some 8000 emails. On discovering this OCS applied back to the Court which decided to send the employee to prison for 6 weeks for breaching the order.
Even though the employee breached the court order OCS was able to protect its confidential information, and this case demonstrates the serious consequences that can flow from the breach of restrictions in an employment contract. No doubt the employee is regretting his actions! Key to this however is having the right protective terms properly set out in the employment contract, a message that all businesses should heed if they are worried about loss of confidential information.