Friday, September 22, 2006
The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of an employee's discrimination claims because the employee deliberately destroyed evidence. A week after the employee's discharge, the employer sent him a letter instructing him to return the employer-issued computer and warning that he should "ensure no data on the laptop is lost or corrupted so as to avoid any spoliation of evidence." The employee nonetheless used a program to "wipe" files from the computer -- including pornography -- before returning the computer to the employer. The court found that the employee's actions severely prejudiced the employer's case by compromising the employer's ability to prove the employee had been fired for a legitimate reason -- such as the receipt or distribution of pornography on company time using company property. In addition to dismissing the employee's case, the court also imposed on the employee the $65,000 it had cost the employer to investigate and litigate the spoliation issue.
The case is Leon v. IDX Systems Corp., ___ F.3d ___, Nos. 04-35983, 05-35426 9/20/06).