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Telstra sued for Employee’s Use of Confidential Information

In a case to watch, Telstra is facing a sexual harassment claim by a couple, who argue Telstra is liable for the actions of their next-door neighbour, a former Telstra employee, who accessed their confidential contact information to stalk and harass the couple.

In the Federal Court case filed late last year, Darren Weir & Anor v Telstra Corporation Limited ABN 33 051 775 556 & Anor QUD449/2021, the couple, who were previously customers of Telstra, claim that Telstra’s failure to properly address their complaint about a series of anonymous, blank messages they received from Mr Bose in 2014, allowed for the escalation of his behaviour to posting sex ads for the couple online and sending death threats.

Following proceedings in QCAT filed by Bose against the Weirs in relation to a neighbourhood dispute regarding view-blocking trees, the couple discovered that the blank text messages were sent from Bose’s phone. It is alleged that this information was provided to Telstra, and no further action was taken.

The couple claim Bose’s conduct escalated to posting advertisements on the internet encouraging people to attend the Weirs’ family home unannounced to engage in “perverted sexual acts”. The former employee also published the Weirs’ phone number and email address online to solicit pornography and sexual encounters.

The Weirs allege that Telstra is vicariously liable for Bose’s conduct given it occurred largely during work hours, on work devices and through Bose’s access to Telstra’s confidential information. The couple also claims that Telstra’s failure to properly investigate their complaint in 2014 and discipline Bose indicates that "conduct of a harassing nature to Telstra customers was acceptable to Telstra."

The couple seeks unspecified damages and compensation, as well as orders that Telstra investigates and reforms its privacy policy and complaint policies and procedures. The Weirs also seek orders that reforms are implemented to prevent any future misconduct by Telstra employees towards customers.

This case emphasises the need for employers to:

  • implement and enforce strict processes for the handling and use of confidential information and personal information by workers;

  • regularly review and update confidentiality and privacy policies/procedures, as well as confidentiality and privacy provisions in contractor and employment contracts;

  • train workers on privacy and confidentiality responsibilities and obligations; and

  • ensure that appropriate security measures are in place for the protection of confidential information and personal information, including to address and manage data breaches.

A failure to do so may result in employers being held liable for employees' conduct with potential harmful financial and reputational consequences for the business.


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