Who won this case? Angry ex-exec bashes company online

An employee gets fired and, in a fit of anger, runs home and posts confidential corporate info to a public Web site. You can get that taken down and protect your company — can’t you?

Read the facts of this real-life case and decide: Who won?

The facts:

A vice president was fired by the bank he was working for. Disgruntled, he uploaded some confidential company documents to a public site designed to leak private government and corporate information, allegedly to expose illegal activity. The company sued the owners of the site to get the documents removed and the site shut down.

The employer said:

Leaving the info posted violated the law – the former VP had signed a confidentiality agreement and the documents contained private information about the company and its customers.

Who won? The owners of the Web site.

Why: Shutting the site down would violate the First Amendment, the judge said. Also, it’d be unlikely to protect the company, since once documents become public they can easily be re-posted to other sites.

The Internet is creating a fierce battleground for employers and employees. Many employers have strict policies to keep employees from talking about the company or their co-workers online. But once someone leaves the company, what can you do? Not much, especially because once something goes public, you can’t stop people from re-posting it.

People have always been able to complain about places they used to work – technology’s just made it a lot easier to find an audience. In the end, its really just another incentive to keep positive employee relations and try to mitigate damage during termination meetings.

Do you have any thoughts on how companies can protect their reputations? Share with us in the comments section.

Cite: Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd v. Wikileaks

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