When departing a company to join a competitor, employees should proceed with caution before downloading “personal” information saved on their work computer. While this material is not a company trade secret, downloading it shortly before departing the company can unnecessarily expose the employee to a legal headache. After the employee has departed, the former employer will likely forensically examine her work computer, which will reveal whether and when external storage devices were connected. But the exam will rarely determine what materials were actually transferred—meaning the former employer doesn’t know whether the employee downloaded family photos or key business documents. So, connecting an external device to a work computer in the days/weeks before the employee’s departure can set off alarm bells, often resulting in the former employer sending a cease and desist letter to the departed employee and her new company. The new company will then be concerned about liability for knowingly acquiring and/or using trade secrets, which leads to investigation, legal fees, and a less than stellar first impression of the new employee.
Lewis & Llewellyn has extensive experience advising individuals and companies on the myriad issues that can arise when an employee transitions from one company to another. Click here to read more about this practice area.