Sony has been hit with six class-action suits thus far in response to a massive data breach in late November, all filed by employees claiming that the movie studio was negligent in its protection of personal data.
“For decades, Defendant failed, and continues to fail, to take the reasonably necessary actions to provide a sufficient level of IT security to reasonably secure its employees’ PII [personally identifiable information],” the most recent complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, reads.
Sony informed employees in mid-December that stolen data included employee names, addresses, Social Security numbers, passport numbers, driver license numbers, bank information, credit card information (related to corporate travel), user names, passwords, salary figures and “other employment related information” that was not detailed. Medical claims information for employees on Sony’s health plan may also have been compromised.
The first lawsuit was filed on Monday, Dec. 15, with more following in the same week. All have contended that the studio placed its financial interests ahead of standard security practices. “Sony failed to secure its computer system, servers and databases, despite weaknesses that it has known about for years, because Sony made a business decision to accept the risk of losses associated with being hacked,” the first lawsuit reads.
The second lawsuit cites “hack revelations like thousands of passwords stored in a file named ‘password,’ internal company reports about vulnerabilities and more,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
By asking the court for class-action status, these lawsuits may allow thousands of other Sony employees to join. It is expected that some of the lawsuits will be consolidated before proceeding.
Impact of The Interview
Privacy concerns are at the heart of all the lawsuits. But the second complaint also places blame on Sony for decisions made regarding The Interview, the film believed to be the motivation for the hack.
“Various news reports suggest the original script of The Interview included a fake villain, but that Sony specifically changed the script to make North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un the film’s villain,” the lawsuit states. “Upon information and belief, Sony knew it was reasonably foreseeable that producing a script about North Korea’s leader Kim Jon Un would cause a backlash.”
The lawsuit will investigate whether this decision created an “unreasonable risk” for employees.
As of Dec. 29, Sony had retained the services of attorneys from WilmerHale, specialists in intellectual property and antitrust litigation, to defend it against the lawsuits.
When looked at as a whole, lawsuits against employers that go to trial in the United States are won by the employee approximately 67% of the time.