Employers can sue employees who misuse protected information under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
Minnesota business lawyers should be aware of the the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030 allows persons or businesses to sue those that injured them, which may include former employees. The Act prohibits (1) the unauthorized accessing (2) of a “protected” computer (3) with the intent either (a) to obtain information, (b) to further a fraud, or (c) to damage the computer or its data. The statute of limitations for civil actions under the Act is two years.
In one case under the Act, Shurgard Storage Centers, Inc. v. Safeguard Self Storage, Inc., 119 F. Supp. 2d 1121 (W.D. Wash. 2000), employees of plaintiff, were hired away by defendant. Plaintiff alleged that some of those employees emailed trade secrets to defendant while still employed by plaintiff. The court found that once the employees started working for the benefit of the defendant they probably were no longer authorized users (in other words, their access was unauthorized).