How to keep laid-off workers honestMay 26, 2009: 10:42 AM ET
Experts reveal the best ways to keep company information in the building when the employees exit.
Tom Goll, Owner, U.S. Diversified Tech, Nashua, N.H.
We always hear about what employees should do to prepare for layoffs. But what should employers do to ensure that company data, contacts and customer lists don't walk out the door with terminated employees?
By Adriana Gardella, Fortune Small Business senior editor
You can take several steps to prevent or deter misappropriation and to bolster your legal position should you find yourself embroiled in litigation, says labor and employment lawyer Chris Arbery of Hunton & Williams in Atlanta. Arbery advises employers to implement a clear policy on confidential information, specifying that all business data, media, equipment and networks are company property. Let your employees know that any unauthorized use or disclosure of company information will be taken seriously. And be sure they sign confidentiality agreements to safeguard your trade secrets and other potentially sensitive data such as customer lists.
You may also wish to consider incorporating a noncompete agreement into your employees' severance packages, says Elizabeth Milito, a lawyer with the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C. Such an agreement, which must comply with state law and be reasonable in geography and scope, will prevent your former employees from working for your competitors or striking out on their own.
Because these measures may not dissuade the most determined sneak, Arbery also counsels, "Work with a network-systems specialist to secure electronic files to prevent - or at least trace - unauthorized downloads to flash drives and the like."
This column provides general information only and is not intended to replace the services or legal advice of an attorney. Always consult a lawyer regarding any specific legal concerns, as laws vary from state to state.
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