I may be naive, but I believe that most employees leaving one job for another want to leave in as amicable a way as possible. Most of them have no intention of stealing your trade secrets, unfairly competing against you or hurting your business in any way.
But then there are the other departing employees. They are the ones who take your customer preference lists, use your resources to set up a competing business, steal your trade secrets or sabotage your computer system as they leave. These are the bad apples that we have to address in non-competition agreements and confidentiality statements.
I think one of the most effective ways to protect your company from these pirates is to have a written policy explaining to your departing employees what is and is not proper behavior at the time of termination. You might want to include some or all of the following:
- You may not take, copy nor provide to anyone outside of the company our list of current or prospective customers or [name other confidential documents];
- You may not use our resources (computers, e-mail, telephones, offices, etc.) to start or run your own business or to aid or communicate with your new employer;
- While you are still employed here, you may not encourage our customers, employees or vendors to end their relationship with us and join you in any new business or other company;
- You cannot publicly announce your new position or business until you have left our employ;
- You cannot remove files, manuals, papers or other documents from our premises if they belong to the company or address company business;
- You cannot transfer any company information or data electronically to another employer or to yourself off premises or to any disc, flash drive, or other electronic storage device;
- You may not delete, remove or destroy any data from the company computer system prior to your leaving your employment;
- On your last day of work, you must return all keys, credit cards, laptops, cell phones, or other equipment that belongs to the company. You may request to remove personal information from this equipment under the supervision of a company representative;
- If you have not already done so, you will be allowed to remove personal items from your office at a mutually convenient time after work under the supervision of one of our managers
This list certainly won’t address every way in which a departing employee may pilfer valuable information or equipment from your company, but it should get you started thinking about the problems you’ve had in the past which you would like to avoid from now on. If you have had more serious piracy in your workplace, such as the misappropriation of trade secrets or patented processes, you will want to consult with an employment attorney about an enforceable employment agreement that includes a noncompetition provision, as well as other protections for your intellectual property.