Supreme Court Limits Application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Against Employees Who Abuse Their Network Access Credentials

In a decision handed down yesterday, the Supreme Court held that civil liability under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) does not attach for employees who abuse or misuse their access credentials in accessing their current or former employers’ computer networks.  Rather, to be liable under the CFAA, the employees must access databases or other electronic materials that are outside of their access rights and otherwise off-limits to them.

The Case

The case, Van Buren v. United States, arose out of the actions of a former police sergeant.  The former officer, Van Buren, used his valid login credentials to search his police department database for a particular license plate number in exchange for a bribe, but was caught by an FBI sting operation.  Van Buren was charged with a felony violation of the CFAA—18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2).  An individual is liable under this section (which can carry both civil and criminal penalties) if he “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.”  The statute defines “exceeds authorized access” to mean “to access a computer with authorization and to use such access to obtain or alter information in the computer that the accesser is not entitled so to obtain or alter.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(6).

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Minnesota Whistleblower Act: Recent Decisions Indicate Summary Judgment Practice Alive and Well

Retaliation and whistleblower claims are on the rise nationally, and Minnesota is no exception to this trend. In part, this is because plaintiffs’ counsel perceive such claims — particularly claims arising under the broad Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) — as relatively easy to get past a motion for summary judgment and to trial. However, four recent decisions issued by Minnesota courts suggest that this perception may not be well founded.

In each decision (two opinions by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, one opinion by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and one opinion by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota), the court granted or affirmed the granting of summary judgment in favor of the employer. These decisions provide useful guidance in assessing potential arguments to defeat a retaliation claim on a motion for summary judgment.

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Another Lawsuit Challenging Employer COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

Faegre Drinker previously reported on one of the first lawsuits challenging a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As employers continue to evaluate employee vaccination, another lawsuit has been filed in the Central District of California, California educators for Medical Freedom et al v. The Los Angeles Unified School District et al., 21-cv-02388 (C.D. Cal. filed 3/17/2021).

The California Educators for Medical Freedom, along with seven employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, are seeking injunctive relief and potential damages due to a vaccine mandate instituted in March of 2021. Plaintiffs were allegedly told that if they were not vaccinated by April of 2021, they could face a “job detriment, up to and including termination from employment.”

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Preview of Things to Come? Lawsuit Challenges Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Access to COVID-19 vaccines continues to expand in the United States and employers are navigating many questions surrounding employee vaccination and return to work. Current polling shows a substantial number of American workers are hesitant about or may refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, an employee in New Mexico has filed what appears to be one of the first lawsuits opposing an employer’s vaccination mandate.

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Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc.: Opening the Door to Non-Compete Agreements Between Businesses in California

In a recent decision, Ixchel Pharma, LLC v. Biogen, Inc.,[1] the Supreme Court of California opened the door for some restrictive covenants between commercial enterprises, but it left alone California law generally prohibiting post-employment restrictive covenants with employees.
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The Impact of COVID-19-Related Factors on Courts’ Enforcement of Employee Post-Employment Restrictive Covenants

In the best of economic times, some courts can be reluctant to grant immediate injunctive relief and enjoin an employee from working in order to enforce employee post-employment restrictive covenants. Now that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession, that challenge has grown. Current economic considerations are causing some courts to weigh the “balance of harms” on injunctive relief applications in favor of employee defendants who are faced with the difficulty of finding other work in an economic downturn with high unemployment. Nevertheless, our review of recent decisions from around the country indicates that courts remain willing to consider injunction motions on an emergent basis to enforce restrictive covenants, particularly where there is a threat of trade secret misappropriation.

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