Severe penalty for employee in breach of injunctive order
A recent decision by the High Court imposing a prison sentence of six weeks on an ex-employee for breaches of an interim injunction highlights how seriously the court considers poor conduct of a party and the real consequences of non-compliance with the terms of a civil order.
OCS Group UK (OCS) provides, amongst other things, cleaning services to the aviation industry, including British Airways (BA) at Heathrow Airport. OCS's contract with BA came to an end on 28 February 2017 and the contract was awarded to a competitor, namely Omni Serv.
Mr Jagdeep Dadi was employed by OCS until 28 February 2017 however when the contract with BA came to an end he transferred to the employment of Omni Serv in accordance with the TUPE Regulations. Prior to transferring his employment contract from OCS to Omni Serv, a dispute arose relating to confidential information in which OCS sought declaratory relief, an injunction and damages for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and/or breach of confidence against Mr Dadi and others. Particular reference was drawn to the transmission of confidential documents and information to their home email addresses or external storage devices and the unlawful use/transmission of such documentation and information to third parties.
On 27 February 2017, Marcus Smith J ordered an interim injunction (the Order) against Mr Dadi and others. The Order placed obligations on the parties, among other things, to preserve documents and prohibited disclosure of confidential information and existence of the Order. The Order included a penal notice which warned that disobedience of the Order would render the party liable for imprisonment, a fine or for assets to be seized.
Mr Dadi was served with the Order both at his place of work and at his home address but he quickly breached the terms of the Order. Mr Dadi attended a hearing on 3 March 2017 and, after seeking legal advice, made admissions which included that he had disclosed the details of the Order, deleted emails from his phone, carried out a mass deletion of 8000 emails from his web-based email account and informed a number of his family members and friends of the Order. Mr Dadi said that he did not seek competent legal advice until three days after being served with the Order, by which time he had already breached the Order in the manner detailed above.
OCS made an application to the Court with regard to Mr Dadi's conduct and in particular sought a prison sentence to reflect the severity of his actions.
Despite Mr Dadi making further submissions to the Court in respect of his subsequent co-operation with OCS, his character and his personal circumstances, Mrs Justice Rose concluded that he must face the consequences of his actions and that a short sentence of imprisonment would be an appropriate measure for contempt of Court. Mrs Justice Rose outlined that Mr Dadi had no one to blame but himself for his conduct in breaching the Order and that he must have realised that his conduct was precisely what was prohibited in the Order.
This judgment is a stark reminder of the requirement for compliance with Court orders as well as the severe consequences that can arise from disobedience.