Ugh. I hate to do this, but I think it is time to share with you, the good employees of Virginia, the following secrets about lawsuits and litigation.
In real life, when something happens in the employment context, it often is dismissed as part of doing business.
In Court (which is NOT REAL LIFE) when something happens, big fancy words and terms are given to the act, allegations are made, and small actions become very big actions tied to damages, attorneys fees and sanctions.
I know, you have no idea what I am saying. Here are a few examples.
1. YOU ARE AN UNHAPPY EMPLOYEE. You are also very hard working and have spent years working on relationships with your customers and clients, who love you. Customer Fred says to you one day, “Hey Sal, ever think of opening your own shop?” You love Fred, have known him for years and so you honestly respond “Fred, I think of it every day. But I have this non-compete and I would hate to breach it and take all of Frank’s customers. He would be so angry if I did that”
1. BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY
2. TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE OF CONTRACT
3. TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE OF BUSINESS EXPECTANCY
Employee, while owing a duty to FRANK, INC., did knowingly and intentionally, defame FRANK, try to take his business, took affirmative steps to breach his contract, and caused Frank millions of dollars in damages. Furthermore, while an employee, owing a fiduciary duty of loyalty, he did take affirmative steps to compete with and take the customers of FRANK, blah blah blah blah blah.
2. YOU ARE AT OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY and Sally, the receptionist with a love of gossip, asks you what your plans are for the New Year. You, having had a few too many glasses of pink punch, explain this might be the year you and Ralph in accounting go open your own business. Few months later, you leave, and Ralph quits. Coincidence? Sally doesn’t think so and so she shares the Christmas conversation with Owner.
1. BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY
2. BREACH OF NON-SOLICITATION
3. TRADE SECRET VIOLATION (they love this one when two employees go anywhere together)
4. CONVERSION (Someone thinks they see you take a box of invoices out the door when you leave)
The defendants, Larry and Ralph, did knowing and intentionally take the trade secret information of the plaintiff, with the intent to use such information for their own economic gain. in addition, they breached their employment agreements herein attached as Exhibit 1, by….
Here is the moral of the story.
KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.
Don’t email. Don’t share.
Don’t chat. Don’t write your future plans online.
When someone wants to sue you, or make an example out of an employee – these small, harmless tid bits of information become huge big deals that will keep you in litigation for MONTHS longer than you want.
I would value the above incidents, to $10,000 EACH in attorneys fees for defending your case. No really. $10,000.
So please, be careful. In Litigation speak, and in lawyer land, the above are just enough to file suit and keep you in Court when you really don’t want to be there.