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Employee Misuse of Business Computers

February 9, 2007
Related Topics: Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Featured Article
While employed by Agilent Technologies, Cameron Moore used his employer’s computer systems to send threatening e-mails and to post offensive messages on a cyber message board through his personal e-mail account. These messages were directed towards two individuals, Michelangelo Delfino and Mary Day, who had no affiliation with Agilent.

    Delfino and Day sued Agilent and Moore. They argued that Agilent should be liable for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress because the company had approved Moore’s behavior. Agilent defended on the ground that Moore’s conduct was not the product of his work, and that it terminated his employment after discovery of his actions and cooperated in the FBI’s investigation of his threats.

    A California Court of Appeals held that Agilent was not liable for Moore’s actions since his actions were outside the scope of Moore’s employment. "Even assuming that Moore used Agilent’s computer system in accessing the Internet to send one or more of these messages, the injury he inflicted was ‘out of personal malice, not engendered by the employment.’ " Michelangelo Delfino v. Agilent Techs. Inc., No. H028993 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 14, 2006).

    Impact: Despite the court’s decision, it is suggested that employers have policies that prohibit the use of company provided Internet or computers for inappropriate purposes.

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