Warm Zones (WZ) is a not for profit company whose objective is to deliver energy efficient measures and welfare benefit and energy advice to domestic households throughout the UK. WZ had a database about householders which it argued had been built up over a number of years at substantial cost and effort and which contained confidential information. Ms Thurley's (T) and Ms Buckley's (B) employment contracts contained express confidentiality provisions prohibiting them from using or disclosing any confidential information about the business and affairs of WZ during and after employment, but no post termination restrictions.
T and B left WZ and started to work for a competitor of WZ, UK SS Renewal Energy Services Limited (RES). T brought an unfair dismissal claim against WZ and as a result of those proceedings WZ discovered e-mails which suggested that T and B had disclosed, or were prepared to disclose, WZ's database information to RES while they were still employed by WZ. T and B offered to make sworn affidavits and deliver up hard and soft copies of relevant documents. This was not enough for WZ which sought an Order for the imaging of T and B's computers and inspection of those computers by an independent solicitor at WZ's expense.
Mrs Justice Simler found WZ's evidence to be cogent, was sceptical of T and B's evidence and granted the Order notwithstanding T and B's contention that it was designed to seek privileged information and harass T during her unfair dismissal proceedings against WZ.
This case is a useful illustration of the steps that an employer may take, in appropriate circumstances, to protect its databases and confidential information, where there is evidence that it has been disclosed outside of its systems. If you have concerns about the disclosure of information outside of your systems by past or present employees, please do contact any member of the team for advice on how you might seek the return of that information. We can also advise on the possible steps that can be taken to protect your business from the further disclosure, misuse and exploitation of that information.