Tue | Apr 16, 2024

UPDATED | Petcom asks court to gag former employee

Published:Sunday | July 9, 2023 | 12:14 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter

The Petroleum Company of Jamaica (Petcom) has sought the urgent intervention of the Supreme Court to put a gag on a former employee who it claims copied reams of “highly confidential” company data that could cause “severe financial losses” if they are leaked to competitors.

Petcom was a state-owned company until it was privatised in 2016.  

Lawyers for Petcom went to court in April requesting several orders based on claims that the company discovered at the time that the ex-employee was using her company-issued email to send private information about government and private clients among other things to her personal email,

Approximately 35 emails were sent over a one-year period beginning in March last year, Petcom attorney Mike Hylton charged in an affidavit filed in support of the ex parte or without notice application by the company.

Copies of the emails were attached to the affidavit.

“The applicant believes it is absolutely necessary for this application to be heard without notice to the defendant as the defendant may be inclined to divulge said confidential information in her possession before the application is heard,” he charged in the affidavit explaining the ex parte approach.

Documents related to the legal action by Petcom are publicly available, but The Sunday Gleaner has opted not to name the former employee because she has not yet had a chance to respond to the claims.

The Supreme Court indicated on Thursday that it will hear the application on September 28, an attorney for the company disclosed.

The employment contract between Petcom and the ex-employee prohibited her from disclosing confidential information about the company, its customers, suppliers and “any other party that may benefit from shared confidential information, Hylton asserted in his affidavit.

Similarly, he said the company's non-disclosure policy bars employees from divulging company information to a third-party.

He said after Petcom discovered that the ex-staffer was allegedly sending confidential information to herself she was invited to a meeting that was scheduled for April 13 this year.

Hylton claimed that during the meeting she was questioned about the reasons for sending the information to her personal email, but “no valid reason was forthcoming”.

She tendered her resignation at the end of the meeting, he said.

The attorney said Petcom has “strong grounds” to believe that the former employee will seek employment at a competitor company “in the coming days/weeks”.

“There is a particular local competitor who has been persuading key employees of the applicant company [Petcom] to switch allegiance over the past few weeks and months,” his affidavit said.

The local competitor was not named.

Petcom wants the court to order the former employee to “immediately” cease the transfer of private company information to her private email; delete all confidential Petcom information from her electronic devices and email; and to cease and desist from sharing them with third parties.

Orders from customers, sales and marketing asset listings, pricing structures for commercial and industrial customers, general active customer, industrial LPG customers and regular land fuel customers are among the confidential data Petcom believes the former employee transferred.

The company said the ex-employee had the ability to share the information with third-party competitors and complained that it would suffer “significant financial losses” if this was done.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story inadvertently identified the applicant as the state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica. That was not so. The applicant is the Petroleum Company of Jamaica, which was privatised in 2016.  We regret the error.