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Computer Tampering, Trade Secrets

One common area of business disputes is to what extent non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality provisions are enforceable and valid when an employee leaves an employer. Related disputes pertaining to whether an employee breaches his or her duty of loyalty by going beyond merely preparing to leave and engages in direct competition are also common. This litigation can often be protracted, expensive and complex. Threats of injunctions and large money damages claims frequently make these disputes high stakes. 

Because it is becoming increasingly common (if not the norm) for business information and data to be stored electronically, there are more and more cases dealing with an employee allegedly tampering with computer data to gain access to customer lists or confidential business information. In Missouri, you can be sued civilly for tampering with computer data. Tampering with computer data includes (without limitation): (1) modifying or destroying data or programs residing or existing internal to a computer, computer system, or computer network, (2) modifying or destroying data or programs or supporting documentation residing or existing external to a computer, computer system, or computer network, (3) disclosing or taking data, programs, or supporting documentation, residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network, or (4) disclosing or taking a password, identifying code, personal identification number, or other confidential information about a computer system or network that is intended to or does control access to the computer system.

As a result, there are more cases which deal with claims of an employee violating a restrictive covenant in such a way that also triggers potential liability for computer/data tampering. Moreover, under Section 537.525, RSMo, the owner/lessee of the computer system which is improperly tampered with may be awarded reasonable attorney fees. Contact with question about non-compete agreements, non-solicitation agreements, confidentiality agreements, an employee’s duty of loyalty and/or computer tampering.