Protecting Your Company’s Information When Employees Leave
In the course of an employee or contractor’s employment with you, that person will likely have access to many of your business’ most valuable assets. Everything from your processes and procedures, to your customer lists, to your software, to anything else that you may consider your “secret sauce.”
One day, that employee’s employment with you will end. How can you protect these valuable secrets, and avoid them from being disseminated without your approval?
What About a Noncompete Agreement?
You could have someone sign a noncompete agreement. But if you are just seeking to protect your information, completely barring someone from working anywhere may be the proverbial “killing an ant with a bazooka,” in that, it may be more than you need, and invite more legal challenges than you want, should you have to enforce it.
If you’re just trying to protect your information, without concern with where the employee works after his or her employment with you ends, there are a number of ways that you can do that.
Trade Secrets and Confidentiality
You could require the employee or contractor sign an agreement protecting your trade secrets.
You should identify (to the extent possible) what those trade secrets are, and if challenged, you’ll have to prove that the information being protected actually qualifies as a trade secret under Florida law.
Trade secrets are different from requiring a return of property after employment ends. Things like emails, documents, or anything else the employee does or produces through the course of employment, is rightfully yours when the employment ends—even if that information wouldn’t otherwise qualify as a legal “trade secret.”
Make sure that your agreement says that the employee must return any and all information that belongs to your company—and that includes a requirement that any duplicates that may have been made of this information that aren’t returned to you, are destroyed.
So if the employee does return every document, or piece of data, that belongs to you, how do you prevent that employee from just telling others (like your competitors) what he or she did, or saw, during his or her employment with you?
To avoid this problem, you may want to consider a nondisclosure agreement, prohibiting the use, discussion, or dissemination of information learned during the employee’s time working with your company.
Non-solicitation agreements can also provide you protection.
Unlike noncompete agreements, which have a number of legal requirements to be enforceable, a non-solicitation agreement doesn’t have as many requirements to be found enforceable if the agreement is challenged.
Your non-solicitation agreement should prohibit the (former) employee from not just soliciting your clients or customers, but also, from soliciting your employees, or even, your referral sources.
Do you need to protect your company’s secrets? We can help you draft the documents you need–or enforce the ones you have. Call our West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.