What can you do if an ex-employee steals confidential information?

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We all hope this will never happen to us, but what are your rights as an employer if it does?

Regarding digital information, proving the theft of confidential or copyrighted material can be challenging, especially for accountants in Sydney. However, if an employer can provide evidence of an employee’s misconduct or the ease with which the behaviour can be replicated, the court has supported the employer in such cases.

Section 183(1) of the Corporations Act states:

  1. A person who obtains information because they are, or have been, a director or other officer or employee of a corporation must not improperly use the information to:
  • gain an advantage for themselves or someone else; or
  • cause detainment to the corporation

In addition to this Corporation Act section, sections 115 (1) and (4) of the Copyright Act provide additional support to the employer for obtaining damages against an ex-employee.

In the case of SAI Global Property Division Pty Ltd v Johnstone (2016) FCA 1333, SAI Global brought an action against Mr Johnstone (an ex-employee) for breach of his fiduciary duties under s.183 and also for damages for breach of copyright under s. 115 (4).

SAI Global could not establish any injury caused by Mr Johnstone’s actions as a breach of s.183 and was awarded damages of $1. However, they were also awarded $5,000 in damages for breach of s. 115 (4) of the Copyright Act, as the information stolen was the subject of copyright.

Kreston Stanley Williamson Team

*Correct as of July 2017

*Disclaimer – this article has been produced by Kreston Stanley Williamson as a service to its clients and associates. The information contained in the article is of general comment only and is not intended to be advice on any particular matter. Before acting on any areas in this article, you must seek advice about your circumstances. Liability is limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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