Confidentiality is a crucial aspect of any employment relationship, and employees who expose confidential information belonging to their employer can face severe consequences. Employers have a legitimate need and expectation of confidentiality in order to protect their brand, and intellectual property and to stay ahead of their competition.
The case of David Namu Kariuki vs. Leo Investments & others (2022) eKLR is a prime example of the consequences of exposing confidential information in the workplace. The case involved a former employee who was terminated from his position as Group Financial Controller after he shared information regarding the employer’s operations, specifically touching on its financial aspects, with his advocate. The court found that the employee’s actions constituted a breach of his employment contract, which required him not to divulge confidential information to any outsider.
It is essential for employees to understand that confidential information can encompass almost anything in the workplace. From sensitive financial data and company strategies to employee records and client information, the list of what is considered confidential is vast. As such, employees should avoid:
- Sharing confidential information with anyone outside the organization, including family members, friends, and external consultants.
- Using confidential information for personal gain or benefit.
- Exposing confidential information through unsecured email communications or storage devices.
Employers, on the other hand, should educate their employees on the importance of maintaining confidentiality, provide regular training and have clear policies in place to mitigate the risk of confidential information leakage. In the current digital age, companies should also prioritize cyber security to prevent hacking and phishing attacks, which often rely on employees sharing confidential information.
The consequences of exposing confidential information can be severe and far-reaching to both the employee and the employer. For example, the High Court in Mombasa in November 2022 ordered ABSA Bank to pay a Mombasa business, New Mega Africa, Kshs. 1.5 billion following an alleged leakage of its confidential information to third parties.
Elsewhere, former employees of Safaricom Limited, in addition to facing serious criminal sanctions, were restrained by the High Court of Kenya in Safaricom PLC v Simon Billy Kinuthia & 2 others  eKLR from publishing, disseminating, sharing electronically or in print media, transferring, selling or offering for sale or in any other way whatsoever disclosing the personal subscriber data of any of Safaricom’s subscribers following allegations that they had stolen and attempted to sell subscriber data touching on betting trends while they were employed by Safaricom.
In conclusion, maintaining confidentiality is crucial in protecting a company’s competitive advantage, brand reputation and overall financial stability. Employees should be mindful of their obligations and the consequences of breaking confidentiality, while employers should provide regular training and implement strict policies to safeguard confidential information. Remember, protecting sensitive information is not just a legal obligation, but also a critical aspect of responsible and ethical business practices.