Employment Law: 23 March 2019
It is common for businesses to provide employees with company-owned devices such as smart phones, laptops and USB sticks. Is your business adequately prepared to deal with the use of those devices including the retention of the information stored following the departure of an employee? If not, this blog may be of interest to you.
Actrol Parts Pty Ltd v John Coppi is a recent Victorian Supreme Court case that has dealt with an outgoing employee's decision to reset his work iPod and iPad to the factory settings. It was argued by his employer that Mr Coppi (the employee) breached his contract of employment, his confidentiality agreement and certain policies of the company in causing his company-issued devices to undergo a factory re-set.
The employee was required under his employment contract to hand back his portable devices upon termination of his employment. The content in the devices contained a mixture of private and company information, some of which was commercially sensitive and of some value to the employer.
Contrary to the employer's submissions, the Court found that there was no term of the employee's employment or confidentiality agreement that prohibited him from resetting the devices. By resetting the devices the employee was not in breach of his employment contract.
This case exemplifies the need for businesses to have adequate legal protection through employment contract clauses that deal with the use of company issued devices at the beginning and end of the employment term. We recommend that having policies in place that deal with company issued devices assists employers with the management and appropriate use of company devices including a prohibition on deleting business related material or data from portable devices.