In many ways, employment litigation is like family law (now, keep reading – I have a point!).
When things end badly, people don’t trust each-other. They assume one party intends to cause harm and that no one is telling the whole truth.
When a good employee leaves to work for a competitor, or to start his or her own business, employers often call in IT experts and others to see if information has been taken with the employee: client lists, pricing models, etc. Old emails are read and systems are scanned. Did the employee take documents? Email them to her gmail account the week before she quit? Did those documents belong to her, or us?
And yes, before you discount this has been a large company thing to do, please know, even small companies do this.
And the lawyers who advise those companies encourage these type of protective measures to guard against illegal or inappropriate use of protected, confidential information. Want to know what else they are advising your old boss? I do – and here is what good employment lawyers who represent companies are saying:
- Don’t trust those employees (ok, so I am paraphrasing)
- Be smarter than the employees when it comes to technology
- Have an exit interview and remind them you can sue!
- Have them sign binding contracts that prohibit this, so when they do take the information – you can sue them!
So if you leave, and join a new company in the same business, or better yet, a direct competitor, regardless of whether you have a written contract or non-compete agreement, you should assume big brother ex-employer is looking after you. And you should also assume that if you do something fishy, they’ll learn about it. And in my experience, if you do something fishy, they’ll call their lawyer and you will get sued or worse, your new job will also be at risk.
The world is changing, and we sure encourage Virginia employees to know what they can and cannot do legally before they make a leap!