Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Employer Found Liable for Damages for Accessing Former Employees' Personal Emails

A district court in New York held that an employer who accessed two former employees' personal email accounts during an investigation after the employees quit are liable for damages under the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA), even if they suffered no actual damages. Since no actual damages need to be shown, the court also held that the calculation of statutory damages ($1,000 per violation), generally is based on the number of times the “electronic communications facility” (or personal e-mail account, e.g., Hotmail) is accessed, not the number of emails accessed. Furthermore, noting the SCA targets the unauthorized access of an electronic communication facility (not the e-mails themselves), and because there was nothing to indicate the number of times each of the four accounts were accessed over the short nine-day period, the court found four violations.

The case is Pure Power Boot Camp Inc. v. Warrior Fitness Boot Camp LLC.

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