I am not Leno or Letterman; I am much younger and shorter than either of these guys.
But I like top ten lists and want to help Virginia employees to avoid expensive litigation, so here is the TOP TEN MISTAKES VIRGINIA EMPLOYEES MAKE THAT LEAD TO LITIGATION (one at a time – although since today is Friday, you get two):
1. EMAIL BLUNDERS.
Remember that email you sent last fall to a colleague about how you “hated working for Virginian Incorporated LLC and couldn’t wait to quit and put them out of business?” Or how about that email you sent to your Secretary about how your “boss was a fat loser who couldn’t get a job anywhere else if she hadn’t flirted with the owner of Virginian Incorporated LLC?”
I am confident you don’t remember these emails. Most likely they were sent with little thought.
The bad news for you is that if you leave your current job, and your exit is not on the best terms – your email, computer, hard-drive, blackberry etc., will be wiped down by a computer expert after your departure. Emails, files, past Internet searches will be searched using key words, including names of other employees, company names, etc.
Do you think if they find a stash of these emails Virginia Incorporated LLC, your boss included, will simply walk away? Think again. Many Virginia companies consider it a calculated risk to go after a former employee. Their options, given this kind of communication, are numerous.
If you did plan your new business while still employed as Email 1 implies, you could be held liable for breach of fiduciary duty. If the email regarding fat boss harmed her business reputation, that could become defamation claim. If you shared these thoughts and impressions with a client, and they client leaves Virginia Incorporated LLC, that could be the basis for a tortuous interference of contract claim.
ADVICE: Don’t email anything on your work account that you couldn’t explain to a judge and jury later. Also, don’t send personal emails at work – even from a gmail or yahoo account. After you leave, these accounts can and may be accessed, searched and used against you.
Under Virginia law, you have NO expectation of privacy on a work computer or cell phone. Further, this is just the kind of thing that motivates an employer to hire an attorney and file suit.
2. SOCIAL NETWORKING NO-NOS:
Don’t be an idiot. Everything you post on Twitter, FaceBook, Squidoo, LinkedIn etc. is in the public domain and will be used against you in litigation.
A friend told me about a secretary at his old firm, who posted on FaceBook as her profile update: “Idiot boss just came in and asked me to do something. Blah Blah Blah Blah. I work for a moron.” Moron, maybe… but a self promoting associate saw the post moments later and shared it with idiot boss, who promptly asked said secretary to pack her things and leave.
This becomes an issue even after you have left, if you are soliciting clients in breach of a non-compete agreement, or starting your own business which is also in breach.
Don’t post “Just had great dinner with guys from HAYMARKET FIRM and pretty sure I will land the account. Good connections are important.” Yes, yes connections are important and that is why your old employer made you sign a contract that you would not poach their clients including said Haymarket Firm.
ADVICE: Use your brain. Don’t post ANYTHING you wouldn’t want your old, current or future boss to read. As an aside, if applying for work, people are evaluating and judging you online before they even read your resume.