Here’s good news you can use to warn employees against misusing company computers and other technology for their own benefit, to compete or to commit fraud: Employees can’t argue that because they received the equipment to use, they are authorized to access information for purposes unrelated to business.
That’s especially true if the employer makes it clear in its communications and computer-access policies that only official business use is permissible.
Recent case: Leigh and Sonya worked for a specialty chemical company and signed a noncompete agreement as a condition of employment. Leigh then worked on developing a company computer usage policy that defined “inappropriate conduct” as using the computer systems to engage in private or personal business activities, to make unauthorized copies of data or to delete data.”
However, the two downloaded confidential information, deleted other information from their company-issued computers and left to form a competing company.
The chemical company sued them under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, alleging they engaged in unauthorized access to the company’s computer systems.
The women argued that because they had permission to use the computers, they were authorized to use them as they saw fit.
The court disagreed, pointing to the computer policy Leigh herself helped create. The court said Leigh and Sonya can be held liable for their access and data destruction. (Beta Technology v. Meyers, et al., No. 13-1282, SD TX, 2013)