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When employee deleted the company files and information...

The following is a recent court case heard in August 8, 2018 is not related to Human Resources but it is insightful and interesting:

Case: Tai Cheung Properties Ltd v Cheng Wood Ming ([2018] HKEC 2223)


The defendant, Mr Cheng had been working at the plaintiff’s company since 1991. In December 2013, the company believed Mr Cheng’s working attitude is problematic, thus wanted to terminate his employment. Mr Cheng and the company came into an agreement to terminate Mr Cheng’s employment at the company on December 14, 2013.

In December 16, 2013, the company discovered that all files stored in Mr Cheng’s computer in the company were deleted. Thus, the company applied for in injunction to restrain Mr Cheng from using the information he obtained from the company.

In December 11, 2015, Mr Cheng admitted to deleting the files and information. He claimed that he had emptied the trash in his computer thinking that all the files deleted was his, without checking whether there were files that belong to the company. He also admitted that on December 16, 2013 he threw a hard drive containing files and data of the company into the sea (interesting!).

The company sued Mr Cheng for a total of HKD$5,586,680, which included the costs of retrieving the deleted files.

Court’s decision:

Since Mr Cheng admitted to deleting the files, the Judge believed there is no need to finding out whether the files were deleted by mistake or deliberately.

The Judge examine all the claims of the company, while only HKD$150,000 were considered as direct loss thus was successfully claimed by the company from Mr Cheng.

Takeaway from this case:

Companies should include in the Company’s Handbook or Code of Conduct to remind employees that, all information, data and files are properties that belong to the company. Deleting or destroying properties of the company is an illegal act and the employees should be aware of the possible legal consequences and economic damages to the employer of such intentional or unintentional wrongdoing.

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