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Inspection of Employees’ Home Computers

In Warm Zones v Thurley and another (2014) EWHC 988 (QB), the High Court considered an application by an employer for an order for the imaging and inspection of computers belonging to ex-employees.

Ms Thurley and Ms Buckley were employed until March 2013 by Warm Zones (WZ). Their employment contracts contained express confidentiality provisions prohibiting them from using or disclosing any confidential information about the business and affairs of Warm Zones during and after employment.

During their employment Ms Thursley and Ms Buckley had access to Warm Zones’s database. After their employment had ended, Ms Thursley and Ms Buckley joined a competitor of Warm Zones.

Ms Thursley and Ms Buckley were accused of having copied and/or disclosed a customer database to a competitor of Warm Zones, whilst still employed by Warm Zones. There was e-mail evidence that strongly suggested the employees were attempting to sell information from the database.

Warm Zones applied for an interim injunction based on this alleged unauthorised use or disclosure by Ms Thursley or Ms Buckley of Warm Zones’s database and related information. Specifically, it sought an order for the inspection and imaging of Ms Thursley and Ms Buckley’s computers.

The court granted the injunction and made the order. The court took into account the fact that it had a high degree of assurance about the strength of the employer’s claim, and that the employer had taken years and used significant resources to create the confidential information at the heart of the proceedings.

The court were satisfied that the order sought was a focused one, designed simply to secure the return, protection and security of WZ’s confidential information.

Clare McDairmant, Solicitor, Just Employment Solicitors

Clare McDairmant, Marketing Manager, Just Employment Ltd,

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