By Lisa Anaf, Partner and Diana Diaz, Senior Associate
By now you will no doubt have heard about the $750,000 settlement reached by Harris Real Estate in South Australia and Arabella Hooper, a former Toop & Toop employee who moved to Harris Real Estate after allegedly taking a significant amount of client data with her to her new employer. The settlement was reached 3 weeks into a trial in the District Court of South Australia.
In the 6 week period where Ms Hooper was alleged to have taken the data whilst still in employment, it was also alleged that she altered Toop & Toop database records so that a number of active clients appeared inactive. Further allegations were also made that Phil Harris, a director of Harris Real Estate, was aware of and encouraged the data theft, causing him to step down as REISA President – a position he had only recently been appointed to.
Although this case has received a large amount of media attention due to the significant settlement reached, the theft of client data is not new.
There are always ways for an employer to protect itself from data theft – before and after it happens. Despite this, what we sometimes find in dealing with these cases is that a client’s ability to take action would have been much stronger had they taken some basic steps to protect their data and their interests. Steps such as:
Of course, there are many other steps that employers can take if they discover data theft in their business, including “warning off” letters to former employees (and their new employers) and litigation. With that said, your options may be limited if your business has not taken the five steps set out above.
Given that these are often easy and cost effective steps for any business to implement, wouldn’t you want to know that your business had done everything it could to protect itself and take action should an employee do the wrong thing?
If you require further advice on the issues raised in this alert, please do not hesitate to contact:
Lisa Anaf | Partner
T: +61 3 9605 0857
John Turnbull | Partner
T: +61 3 8568 9519