Terminating an employee can be a risk to a company, especially if that employee had access to trade secrets or confidential technology. An ex-employee can have many motivations for stealing and selling this type of information, but the motivations behind this activity don’t change the fact that companies need to protect themselves. There are a few best practices that organizations should follow to ensure terminated employees can’t access confidential data.
The first step to protecting IP is to cut off an employee’s access to information during their termination meeting, not after or before it. Removing login credentials before a termination can alert the employee to what’s going on, causing them to act in spite before their privileges are lost. During the termination, management should remind the employee of all restrictive covenants and post-employment confidentiality obligations. They should also make sure the ex-employee no longer carries any company devices that they can take out of the office.
Employees with a high level of technical expertise may still be able to access confidential data even when proper steps are taken. In this situation, a company may want to financially incentivize the ex-employee to comply with their rules during their termination. If an employee feels like they are treated fairly, they will be less likely to act against the company.
In the event that an ex-employee is able to pass on confidential data to a third-party, a company may have legal remedies to offset the financial damage done. An intellectual property litigation lawyer may carefully evaluate a case of IP theft and find out if filing a lawsuit is in the best interests of their client. Attorneys in this area of law are responsible for helping protect the trade secrets of their clients.