EMPLOYMENT

Employee Imprisoned for Contempt of Court

Every employment contract and relationship contains an implied term that an employee will serve their employer with good faith and fidelity. This includes a duty for an employee to keep confidential information relating to their employer private regardless of whether an express duty to do so is contained in their contract of employment.

Confidentiality becomes a matter of paramount importance to companies where an employee is exiting the business or indeed moving to a competitor. In such circumstances where confidential information has the potential to damage an employer’s business, and a breach can be established, an employer can seek to protect their interests by taking injunctive action in the High Court.

Such issues arose in the recent English High Court decision of OCS Group UK v Dadi [2017] EWHC 1727 (Ch). This case concerned OCS Group, a company which provided cleaning services to the aviation industry with a client base which included British Airways amongst others. The Defendant Mr Dadi was a former employee who had transferred to a competitor Omni Serv on 28th February under TUPE as a result of a loss of a contract.

On the day prior to Mr Dadi’s transfer (27th February) OCS Group issued injunctive proceedings against him and others citing breaches of contract including breach of fiduciary duty and/or breach of confidence as a result of transferring confidential documents and information to their home email addresses or external storage devices. In particular it was claimed that Mr Dadi had sent documents relating to logistics and the costs of providing aircraft cleaning services to British Airways. On application the Court made an Order against Mr Dadi prohibiting him from disclosing or transmitting confidential information, preventing him from destroying evidence and furthermore from disclosing that an Order had been made against him.

It was not contested that upon receiving the Order Mr Dadi breached it by advising a colleague of the contents, deleting emails from his phone and thereafter deleting a further 8,000 emails from an AOL email account. Although Mr Dadi contented that he was unaware of the implications of his actions he was held in contempt for Court.

Although the Court gave Mr Dadi credit for his early admission of the breaches and his cooperation with the claimant it found the ‘contempts were deliberate and contumacious breaches’. The court sentenced him to imprisonment for six weeks to demonstrate ‘the court’s strong disapproval of his conduct and to act as a deterrence…and as a warning to others who might be tempted to flout the Court’s orders in this manner.’

This case provides a stark warning of the potential implications for employees who have breached both the terms of their contract of employment and any Orders made by the Court.

If you require any advice in relation to post employment restrictions please contact Millar McCall Wylie on 02890 200050 and ask to speak with a member of our Employment Department.

 

 

 

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