I just read a great case out of Fairfax, Virginia where a company/employer got smacked down in its attempt to sue a former employee! The name of the case is Tryco, Inc. v. U. S. Medical Source.
Tryco is a small business that is authorized to sell medical and dental equipment to the federal government. Brian Thomas worked for Tryco as a customer sales representative. As the on-site employee with the most computer knowledge, he also did some computer maintenance work for Tryco.
In 2007, Jayne Thomas (Brian Thomas’s sister-in-law) formed U.S. Medical Source (Medical Source). In 2008, Jayne Thomas, on behalf of MS, applied for and received approval to sell its products to the federal government. Jayne Thomas approached and subsequently hired Brian Thomas. Brian Thomas never disclosed to anyone at Tryco that he was going to work for a direct competitor.
Before leaving Tryco, Brian Thomas was asked to tie up some loose ends and to prepare instructions for the person who was going to be taking over his accounts. He cleaned out his desk and cleared his desktop computer of his personal files by transferring them to a flash drive. He also created at his boss’s instruction a document called “How to Quote Lackland” to pass on to his successor. The document included the names of buyers he worked with, their phone numbers, and information on how to mark-up sales. At the request of Tryco, on his last day of work, Brian Thomas sent a farewell email to many of the individuals with whom he had done business. His email announced his departure from Tryco and thanked everyone for all they had done for him. It did not disclose Brian Thomas’s new job with Medical Source or provide any new contact information for him. He sent this email from Tryco’s company email address, which every Tryco employee has access to.
Guess what happened next? That’s right! Brian Thomas was sued by Tryco for misappropriation of trade secrets,breach of fiduciary duty, tortious interference, civil conspiracy, and computer trespass under Virginia law.
I am happy to report that Brian Thomas won the case on all issues. In my opinion, this is just another example of a jilted ex-employer who files a lawsuit against a departing employee to “teach them a lesson.” The way Brian Thomas handled his departure from his ex-employer was above board and honest.
I hope the employer learned a lesson.