Ex-employees who have left in acrimonious circumstances can bear grudges, and social media gives them the opportunity to make a pest of themselves. As a High Court case showed, however, specialist lawyers are more than capable of protecting clients who are on the receiving end of harassment or abuse.
The case concerned the former CEO of an IT company whose departure was not harmonious. Subsequent Employment Tribunal proceedings were compromised and, as part of the settlement agreement, she agreed not to publish disparaging or derogatory statements about the company or any of its officers or employees.
That, however, did not prevent her from engaging in a prolonged campaign in which she aired a number of perceived grievances directly to the company and two of its directors and to third parties. She made frequently incoherent claims of dishonest and criminal conduct on Twitter and on an investment information website.
After proceedings were brought on behalf of the company and its directors, the woman failed to respond or put in a defence to the claim. The Court was, however satisfied that she had been properly served with all the required legal documents and permitted the hearing to go ahead in her absence.
In granting summary judgment on the claim, the Court was entirely satisfied that the woman’s activities amounted to defamation, harassment, and breaches of the settlement agreement. The directors had suffered hurt and upset as a result of her campaign and feared continuing reputational damage.
An interim injunction was also issued against her, requiring her to cease her unlawful activities, and she was formally warned that breach of the order would be a contempt of court, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment. The amount of damages that she will be required to pay the directors has yet to be assessed. There was no separate damages claim by the company.