I am a student of human nature. I like to understand what motivates people, and what makes them tick.
I have practiced law for over ten years in various different specialties, most recently non-compete and business tort litigation on behalf of employees.
And in many of the cases where a Virginia employee is sued, I see a common theme that motivates employers to hire a lawyer and file suit. The common theme is bad behavior leads to litigation.
No, not bad behavior like the ex-employee gets drunk at the Company Christmas Party. The following bad behavior is what leads to litigation:
- Lying about future employment
- Telling clients before you quit and asking them to work with your future employer
- Waiting to get your bonus before quitting and taking clients
- Maintaining copies of arguably confidential material on your own devices, phones, computers, etc.
- Mass mean communications about your exit
- Mass exodus of employees to new company or competitor
- Accessing old online files, emails, etc., after exit from a company
- Managing the bid of a competitor or waiting to sign up a client until you leave the company for a competitor who is also bidding the work
- Competing while an employee (2 jobs!)
And while not all bad behavior violates Virginia law, common law, or an employee’s legal duties under a contract, the law rarely impacts whether an employer hire a lawyer. Moral indignation however, is the great motivator in filing suit against an ex-employee.
I often hear opposing counsel say: “My client is just so disappointed, shocked, hurt or upset that Fred did….” or, “Fred was like a son to him. He is taking this personally.”
So my advice to Virginia employees is this: Unless you want to pay our office to defend you in Court, and try to convince a very angry ex-boss and his lawyers that their moral outrage at your behavior is not the same thing as actual damages, or evidence, I suggest you be thoughtful about your departure from company A to company B. Call an attorney before you start that new company, apply to work for a competitor, etc.
After all, it is not likely you meant for your actions to be so nasty. It is likely you were just careless, thoughtless and didn’t realize you were doing anything wrong. Or at least I hope that will be your answer when you call!