In today’s age of technology, protecting valuable business information is imperative to the survival of any company. However, it is also vitally necessary to give employees access to sensitive information in order for them to work effectively and efficiently. But how do you protect the content of your information from being leaked or stolen by current or departing employees?
Initially, the best way to prevent stolen or leaked confidential information is to have a confidentiality clause in your employee contracts and employee handbook. Even if you do not have a contract that specifically states that employees are not permitted to leak or steal confidential information, such acts are implied as impermissible in all employment situations.
If you do have a confidentiality clause in your employment contracts be sure it contains the following;
- Define confidential information; including client lists, marketing materials, and any form of intellectual property or business strategies employees have access to.
- Indicate the ongoing confidentiality obligations, if any, once an employee leaves your employ.
- Add a signature line or a place for employees to put their initials at the base of the confidentiality clause to ensure they have read it and understand it.
- Include specifics for particular job titles; especially for those employees who may have access to more than the average amount of confidential information.
- Clarify the consequences for breaching the confidentiality agreement within the employee contract.
Once an employee has started working, there are several ways in which a business owner can prevent the leaking of confidential information. Some of these ways include;
- Limiting access to sensitive information to only those employees that have an essential need for the data
- Put varying levels of security protections on the different levels of critical material
- Alert and train staff on the types of security breaches that can occur during the course of their daily use of the internet
- Limit access to the internet to only those sites that are both secure and necessary for the daily business process
- Prohibit the use of flash drives and other data transferring devices
- Encrypting email data
If an actual security breach occurs, an employer must be careful to confirm the occurrence of the event and then act swiftly to secure the leaked or stolen information. There are several ways in which an employer can confront a breach of confidentiality including;
- Requesting a meeting with the employee and human resources to confront the alleged act of stealing or leaking confidential information
- Thoroughly investigate the alleged breach prior to taking any additional action
- Provide the employee with a written warning, clearly defining the information that was compromised and outlining the current consequences for the breach. Be sure to also set out the steps that will be taken if such an event occurs again
- Termination of employment; if this is the step that must be taken be sure to document the incident by giving the employee written notice of the breach prior to terminating their employment
- Filing both civil and/or criminal charges against the employee
While no employer wants to have to worry about their employees leaking or stealing confidential information, the fact is that it can happen and the effect can be detrimental to a successful business. Therefore, even if the topic is uncomfortable for employers to address, it is imperative that they do so. Once clear expectations have been set between the employer and the employee, as to what is and is not confidential information, both parties can do their jobs with less concern for any legal violations.
If you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.