Regardless of how great you are as an employer, not all of your employees will stick around forever, especially your most valuable employees. If the employee is valuable to you, you can be sure he or she would be just as valuable, if not more so, to a competitor. When the day comes to say goodbye, make sure to have an exit strategy in place to guard against your confidential information and trade secrets walking out the door with your former employee.
Use an Exit Interview Checklist Geared Towards Trade Secrets
As part of your exit interview process (and you should make especially sure to have such a process for key employees), you should implement an exit interview checklist that addresses trade secrets. For example, your exit checklist may address the following issues:
- Determine where the employee is going to work and whether his/her duties at the new employer relate to his/her job with your company
- Confirm that the employee has returned all company equipment and property
- Provide the employee with copies of any agreements or policies regarding confidential information, non-competition and/or non-solicitation
- Remind the employee of his/her duty under the law not to use or disclose any trade secrets
The exit checklist should identify the individuals conducting the interview and when such interview takes place.
Have the Employee Sign an Exit Interview Acknowledgment Form
In addition to covering the issues in your exit interview checklist, you may also want to have the employee sign an acknowledgment form at the end of the interview. The acknowledgment form should reference any applicable agreements and/or policies discussed during the exit interview. By having the employee sign an acknowledgment, you can help to avoid the common claim of former employees that they did not know that they had a non-compete or continuing obligations not to use your confidential information and trade secrets.
While it may be difficult to lose a valuable employee, do not compound the loss by failing to take precautionary steps before the employee leaves for “greener” pastures.