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Protecting trade secrets from departing employees

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2021 | Trade Secrets

Any time an employee leaves a company, leadership can worry about what information he or she may take to the next job. This can be especially concerning if that employee had access to proprietary information.

Under these circumstances, securing trade secrets and any other private data can be a top priority for business owners. To protect your business and the material that gives it a competitive edge, you can take the following steps upon learning of an employee’s departure.

  • Restrict access to sensitive information. Changing passwords, checking logins and auditing access records can prevent a person from viewing, downloading or sharing protected digital information without authorization. If the proprietary data is in physical files or offices, preventing an employee from entering those spaces can be necessary.
  • Conduct an exit interview. Unless a person is terminated on the spot, there will likely be time to conduct an exit interview. During these interviews, employers can ask a range of questions about why they are leaving and what their relationship with their boss was like. This interaction can help employers spot any red flags that an employee is disgruntled or out to hurt the company.
  • Review terms of any contracts. Reminding an employee about their agreements can be crucial in stopping them from causing legal problems for your business. They may have signed a non-compete agreement, a non-disclosure agreement or a confidentiality clause by which they must abide or face legal consequences. Reiterating these restrictions can be crucial, and it ensures both parties understand their responsibilities.
  • Collect company property. If you provided computers, tablets, flash drives or cellphones to your employee, collecting them when the person is leaving is crucial. Failure to do this promptly can make it very easy for proprietary information to wind up in the wrong hands.

These measures can prevent an employee from exposing trade secrets when they leave your company. 

However, suppose an employee still manages to steal or share proprietary information. In that case, business owners will want to act fast to assess their legal options to minimize damages resulting from the theft.