Employment relationships are characterized by a bond of trust between the employee and the employer as an intrinsic aspect of their continuity. Violation of this trust by either party can even lead to termination of the employment relationship for just cause.[1]

Just as employees expect their employers to protect their personal information, the reverse is also true. In day-to-day work, it is common for employees to have access to a wide range of business information, including that held by suppliers, clients, and third parties.

The duty of confidentiality of information has taken on greater shape with the entry into force of Law 13,709/18 (General Data Protection Law). Following a global trend of caring for personal data, this law brought in specific restrictions on the handling of individuals' data, imposing severe penalties for non-compliance. This reinforced article 3 of the Marco Civil da Internet (Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet, Law 12,965/14), which, even before, already highlighted the importance of protecting privacy and personal data.

This reciprocal duty of confidentiality persists even after the employment relationship has ended. Anyone who violates this obligation may be subject to damages. This is the case of a worker who presents documents protected by industrial secrecy (or secrecy of any kind) in a labor lawsuit, revealing confidential and sensitive information about operations and/or co-workers.

Recently, for example, a decision by the 8th Labor Court of São Paulo made headlines. In a labor lawsuit, the plaintiff submitted photographs of her computer containing confidential and sensitive information about co-workers and company operations. As this information was exposed in a lawsuit that was not under seal, she was ordered to compensate the defendant for moral damages after it filed a counterclaim.

The decision took into account that, in addition to the obligations provided for by law, the employer established confidentiality obligations in the contract, which lasted even after the end of the employment relationship.

Thus, even if, at the end of the employment contract, the case of just cause no longer applies, it is still possible for the former employer to seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages suffered as a result of the former employee's actions.

The decision reinforces the need for employees to respect the confidentiality of information obtained during their employment, under penalty of being liable for damages caused to the former employer.


[1] TST — AIRR 5771-56.2014.5.12.0018 — 8th Panel — decided on March 21, 2018 - decided by Márcio Eurico Vitral Amaro.