Share This Post
When Employees Leave Are Your Trade Secrets Protected?
Technology has made it easier for that employee you just fired (or who quit) to take confidential business information to their next job- and your competitor!
From customer contact information stored to their smartphone to downloaded marketing plans from your cloud server, employee theft has moved beyond stolen papers or the old fashioned flash drive.
Your “secret sauce” need not be shared. Here’s what employers can do to safeguard their information.
- Monitor e-mail traffic and computer access for unusual activity.
- Conduct exit interviews and inventory checks on property.
- Issue reminders of confidentiality obligations.
- Terminate access to computer assets and accounts as soon as the employee departs.
Ensure other employees know you do these things and see them occurring openly.
Most important, especially for smaller businesses without a large IT or Human Resources department, keep track of apps, portals, cloud storage, websites etc that you may use and provide access to your employees on. Forgetting they have access to your Slack feed or Drop Box account for instance, may put you in the position of providing them voluntary access to information post departure or termination.
Employers can also use anti-deletion programs and can generate reports of everything a worker attempted to delete in the last 60 days or so. For instance, if an exiting employee e-mailed a customer list to a personal account and attempted to delete the e-mail trail, that information will be in the report.
Start from the Beginning
A good way for employers to protect their confidential information is to start with solid onboarding procedures. Employers should have workers sign confidentiality agreements and should track any equipment and access that is provided.
If employees are allowed to telecommute, employers should consider a policy that requires employees to perform all of their work on company devices.
The Bigger Picture
Employers should recognize that corporate espionage is a big industry.
When employees are on their way out the door, a new employer may ask them to supply certain information, or employees might want to hit the ground running by using information obtained from a prior employer.
This can be viewed as illegal just as much as being the one providing the information.
The Other Side of the Coin
If your new employer requires this of you, or threatens to fire you if you don’t provide information about a prior employer, you should seek legal assistance.