Ask a lawyer: How can HR prevent corporate sabotage?

HRD talks to an employment lawyer about how to detect and prevent sabotage from malicious ex-employees

Face it: not all employees part ways amicably. 

In extreme cases, employees sometimes even sabotage their former employers by trading secrets and confidential information with competitors.

“Corporate sabotage commonly takes place just before or after the end of an employment relationship, where outgoing employees deliberately breach their ongoing confidentiality obligations to their former employers, with a view to benefitting themselves or their new employers,” said Seow Hui Goh, partner at Bird & Bird ATMD.

Ideally, she said, companies should already have certain protocols in place when an employee leaves the company. Limiting the employee’s access to sensitive information during their notice period, for instance. 

“But this may not always be practical or useful if work is ongoing, or if the employee is already in possession of a substantial amount of trade secrets or confidential information, amassed during the course of employment,” she said.

To minimise the risk of this happening, Goh’s advice is to use computer forensics technology to determine the employee’s online activities.

“A computer forensics report will give the company an idea of the information the outgoing employee has been surreptitiously forwarding, downloading or otherwise removing from the company's databases,” explained Goh. 

If the employee had already left the company by the time crimes have been discovered, Goh said that the forensics report would “likely be admissible” as evidence in court should the employer choose to press charges.

“To protect the company's interests and confidential information, the company may seek an injunction from the courts to permanently restrain the ex-employee from using or further disclosing the company's trade secrets and confidential information and, two, an order for the ex-employee to deliver-up all confidential information in his possession,” she said.

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