In Warm Zones v
Sophie Thurley, the High Court granted an interim injunction allowing an
employer, at its own expense, to instruct an independent computer expert to
inspect and take images from the personal computers of two former employees.
employees were accused of having copied and/or disclosed a customer database to
a competitor whilst still employed by Warm Zones. Their employment
contracts contained express confidentiality provisions prohibiting them from
using or disclosing any confidential information during employment.
When deciding whether to grant the interim injunction, the
court took into account the strength of the employer's claim and the
time/resources used to create the confidential information. There was strong
evidence (in the form of emails) that suggested the employees had disclosed, or
were prepared to disclose, information from a database containing data about
householders. It was unlikely that the employees would be able to provide
alternative explanations for their actions and in the event that they could
not, damages would not have been an adequate remedy for Warm Zones.
This decision is interesting because it is unusual for
courts to order the inspection and imaging of a party’s computers, particularly
when, as in this case, the employees had already agreed to provide affidavits
and to deliver up soft and hard copies of what was on their computers.
If you are considering seeking an injunction against a
former employee it is important to remember that you must:
as much evidence as possible of the individual’s wrong doing;
what steps can be taken to protect your customers/other employees.