Today’s blog post is brought to you by employment and business attorney Manori de Silva of Stanton Law in Atlanta, Georgia. She is qualified as an attorney in England and the United States, speaks Dutch and French, and makes a mean casserole. So basically, she is like her own little United Nations. She has spent the last decade assisting local and international businesses with a variety of employment and commercial matters. If you are in Georgia, California, or in England, and have questions about your business, give her a shout.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this blog post (and anywhere else on this site, for that matter) is intended for informational purposes and should not be viewed as a replacement for getting legal advice from a lawyer.
If I want to protect my customer lists, sales methods, and other know-how, from employees taking it and later using it, what should I do?
In this day and age, being technically savvy is all the more important because it is so much easier now for bad-intentioned employees to copy confidential information using USBs and cellphones than in the olden days, when copying required an actual photocopier or bulky camera. Best practice is to have your employees sign non-disclosure, non-compete and non-solicitation agreements when they join the business if their roles require them to use or access confidential information (which includes trade secrets). It is important to get legal advice on such agreements because courts can and do side with employees to say that the restrictions are unenforceable if they find them too broad. State laws differ greatly in this area, so it is important to get state-specific legal advice.
Additionally, it is important to employ practical measures on the ground so that only those that absolutely need to have access to information that you want to protect are in fact given access. For example, implement password access so that documents cannot be opened by everyone and keep sensitive information in physical or electronic locations that cannot be viewed or accessed by everyone. Hard copy documents should likewise be secured in an appropriate fashion, such as in locked filing cabinets located in rooms to which only those that need to know have access.
If you believe that information has been stolen or is being misused, it is important to act quickly and get legal advice in case you need to seek assistance from the courts to obtain an injunction. It is also critical to get professional advice so that staff members do not inadvertently access or alter hard drives etc. after the alleged theft and leave you unable to prove in court who committed the theft.