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Labor: 4th Circuit decision lets disloyal employees off the hook

Language interpretation creates loophole for lucky defendants

A recent decision by the 4th Circuit serves to caution employers regarding available recourse against disloyal employees. WEC Carolina Energy Solutions LLC v. Miller, considered application of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA) and determined that a former employee’s misappropriation of the company’s information did not violate the CFAA because the employee did not act “without authorization.”

The CFAA, primarily a criminal statute, was designed by Congress to combat computer hacking. It allows, however, for a private party “who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of [the statute]” to bring a civil action “to obtain compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief.” Relevant to the case, the CFAA prohibits:

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John Kuenstler

John F. Kuenstler is a partner in the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and a member of the Labor and Employment Department. Mr....

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