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Coca-Cola’s lawsuit win just one in growing pattern

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The Coca-Cola Co. just won big in a U.S. district court ruling that determined the beverage company is under no obligation to protect the personal information of its employees after a former employee stole a laptop containing information regarding more than 70,000 employees.

While protection of employee information is not stated in an expressed contract, it is baffling that it isn’t implied for a multinational multi-billion dollar company.

An employee reportedly stole more than 50 laptops over a six-year period. One victim, Shane Enslin, later suffered from a number of fraudulent charges, and there were even attempts to reestablish his address.

A similar punitive class action lawsuit was brought against health insurance giant Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield a few years ago, but the case was rejected by a New Jersey judge. A major difference besides the grounds for the litigation: Horizon employees were more clearly filing suit on the grounds of potential “future harm.”

Identity theft tremendously affected the former Coca-Cola employee and plaintiff in the case. Only one of the four plaintiffs involved with the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey case made a claim stemming from a fraudulent tax return. Even then, the judge dismissed this claim based on the lack of causal connection.

Although many of the victim’s charges were dismissed, it’s hard not to find a connection between the two events. Everything from fraudulent purchases to a successful job application were made in his name a couple of months after Coca-Cola admitted to the theft’s potentiality for damage by offering its employees a year of credit monitoring.

The court stated that Coca-Cola had no contractual obligation to protect employees’ personal information.

If it isn’t protected by expressed contracts or even implication in a publicly traded company regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the submission of such information shouldn’t be required at all.

Should the reluctance to supply personal information to a potential hiring company be codified? No, but it definitely expresses in hyperbolic language why it is heinous for a company to hurl its legal team at an employee whose claims initially amounted to $1,800.

It should be noted that Enslin was hired as an employee for the Keystone Coca-Cola Bottling Company, which technically operated as an independent company at the time, but the bottler was later bought out by Coca-Cola.

The “it’s the principal of the thing” argument works both ways regarding the ex-employee filing the suit and Coca-Cola fighting it. That statement aside, we are seeing more and more of this kind of outcome occurring to innocent civilians.

The former employee that committed the crime was reprimanded, and in some cases is told by the court to pay damages to the company, while the company acted as though they owe nothing to the end victims.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Bell is an MBA graduate student and can be reached at [email protected].

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