Employee injunctions: Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect confidential information from your previous employer.19 Jul 2017
Occasionally calls come in not from people who want employment law advice, but from people who want to give it – or, at least, have a clear vision in their mind as to what the state of the law should be. Above all, there is one area where the desire for the law to match a person’s self-interest seems to be higher than any other: the legal obligations owed to a former employer. Here, head of employment for Kuits, Kevin McKenna, explains why employment injunctions are one of the most underused and undervalued tools for employers, and how they can be harnessed in protecting the information essential to the success your business.
In the recent High Court case of OCS Group v Dadi, Mr Dadi’s naivety landed him in prison. Mr Dadi was in the business of aircraft cleaning, and when his employer lost a contract to a competing business, Mr Dadi decided to follow the contract to the incoming contractor.
Mr Dadi’s ex-boss, Mr Ahitan, worked for the new contractor – they had known each other for 18 years and Mr Dadi trusted Mr Ahitan. When Mr Ahitan asked Mr Dadi to email company information to his private email address – about the logistics and costs of providing aircraft cleaning and other services – Mr Dadi duly obliged. When OCS discovered that this had occurred, it sought and was granted an injunction against Mr Dadi.
On a Monday in late-February, Mr Dadi was handed a court order imposing an obligation on him not to destroy evidence of his alleged wrongdoing. He was also ordered not to tip anyone off that the order had been made against him. As is typical, the court order had a penal notice on the front, warning Mr Dadi that disobedience of the order rendered him liable to be imprisoned or fined, or have his assets seized.
In breach of the order, Mr Dadi deleted some of the offending emails and told Mr Ahitan, as well as other unspecified family and friends, about the order. Three days later, Mr Dadi took formal legal advice. Once he had been advised of his mistakes, he then cooperated fully with OCS and their lawyers.
When the case returned to court earlier this month, Mr Dadi, a father of two children with no criminal past, found himself sentenced to six weeks in prison for his contempt of court. This custodial sentence was imposed quite apart from the financial implications of a default judgement having been entered against him for the underlying claim of breaching the duties of confidentiality, which he owed to his former employer.
The message the case sends to employees is a powerful one. Indeed, the High Court fully intended the message to be clear: “the object of the penalty for contempt is both to punish conduct in defiance of the court order and also to hold out the threat of future punishment as a means of securing the protection the injunction is primarily there to confer”. The message for employers is equally potent – the legal system provides the tools to protect your business and its legitimate interests if you know how to use them.
If you are concerned about the misuse or distribution of confidential information, collective knowledge or business contacts by ex-employees, or you would like to discuss how to get an injunction against a former employee, call Kevin McKenna on 0161 838 7851 or contact us.