We’re coming close to the end of our series on actions employers can take to prevent employee theft or improper disclosure of company data. Today’s post discusses the importance of being pro-active and preserving evidence of employee misconduct.

Act Quickly

Acting quickly can help identify breaches of confidential information and prevent loss of customers, trade secrets, or other valuable information.  Additionally, prompt action is critical in the event you seek injunctive relief because courts will expect and demand that the employer show it acted quickly to protect its interests before jumping into court.

Analyze Risk

If an employee resigns with notice, complies with an exit interview, returns all property, and is not going to work for a competitor, there may not be a significant risk of intentional disclosure or theft of trade secrets, but employers should still be wary.  Employer should also remember the potential for inadvertent disclosures. Ensure that the employee is reminded of their continuing obligations to protect confidential and trade secret information even after their employment has ended.

Conversely, if the employee resigns without notice, refuses an exit interview or is vague about their future employment plans, be aware that these are all red flag behaviors.  In situations like this, employers should strongly consider working with their IT folks (or better yet, a forensic vendor) to preserve evidence and investigate to determine if the employee downloaded, printed, or emailed any confidential information prior to giving notice.

By being pro-active and acting quickly, employers have a much better chance not only of winning in court on a trade secret misappropriation case, but stopping the theft in the first place – or at least discovering the theft much sooner in the process and containing the damage as much as possible.

Has your business encountered an actual or suspected theft of trade secrets?  How did you respond?  What could you have done better?