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Employee sentenced to six weeks for deleting confidential emails

A cleaning contractor employee who deleted confidential emails in defiance of an injunction from his employer has been sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment.

Jagdeep Dadi was an employee at OCS Group, an aviation cleaning contractor at Heathrow Airport, but in February 2017 he was transferred to a competing contractor, OmniServ, via TUPE after OCS lost the contract. Following the transfer, OCS claimed that Dadi had breached his employment contract by sending confidential information to his private email and slapped him with an interim injunction.

It was alleged that Dadi conspired with his manager, Mr Ahitan, who was also transferred to OmniServ, to breach his employment duties at OCS. Dadi and two other employees were served with an order that prohibited them from disclosing confidential information to third parties or destroying any evidence relating to the order, and required them to disclose any items of confidential information that had already been shared.

Despite being warned that breaking the order could lead to a fine or a prison sentence, Dadi deleted around 8,000 emails and tipped off others, including his manager, about the injunction, before seeking legal advice. After obtaining advice, he admitted breaching the order and cooperated with OCS in trying – albeit unsuccessfully – to recover the deleted emails.

In a witness statement presented to the High Court in March, Dadi said he received no incentive, financial or otherwise, from either Ahitan or OmniServ. "I provided information to Ahitan because I had known him since 1995 and he asked me for it,” he wrote. “He had been my manager for 18 years. I trusted Ahitan and did not appreciate the significance of what I did at the time."

Although she acknowledged Dadi’s regret and noted that imprisonment is always a “punishment of the last resource”, Justice Rose, the presiding judge, concluded that “a short sentence of imprisonment of six weeks must be imposed on Dadi to mark the court's strong disapproval of his conduct and to act as a deterrence both in respect of his further compliance with the orders of the court, and as a warning to others who might be tempted to flout the court's orders in this manner”.

Richard Nicolle, employment law partner at Stewarts Law, told People Management: “The sentence imposed by the court represents a salutary lesson for any employees subject to an injunction as to the very serious consequences of disregarding its terms.

“While not every case of breach would necessarily involve a custodial sentence the court will carefully consider – as it did in this case – the seriousness of the breach, but also the need to send a message that court orders and injunctions are serious matters and need to be honoured.”

Nicolle added the case should also act as a reminder to employers to take appropriate measures against the inadvertent release of confidential information, including making sure workplace systems are secure and employees are trained in understanding the law surrounding confidential information. 

Added: 20-07-2017

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