Employer gets partial victory under CFAA

6th Circuit says union's denial-of-service campaign was illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Every employer knows that angry union members can spell trouble. After it fired a union employee, Michigan-based Pulte Homes discovered just how far a union will go to protect its members. In addition to filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in which it alleged the home builder fired the employee because he supported the union, the union attacked the company’s phone and email systems by flooding them with calls and messages, making it practically impossible for Pulte employees to complete their daily work.

Pulte sued the union, alleging that it violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). On Aug. 2, the 6th Circuit granted a partial victory to the company in Pulte Homes Inc. v. Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Negotiation Questions

The 6th Circuit concluded LIUNA’s phone and email attacks diminished Pulte’s ability to operate, which violates the CFAA. The court held that “a transmission that weakens a sound computer system—or, similarly, one that diminishes a plaintiff’s ability to use data or a system—causes damage.” Two other circuits—the 3rd and the 7th—also have supported the diminished-ability concept.

Jennifer Morrell

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