Steps to Take When an Employee Exposes Trade Secrets

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Businessman signaling to keep a secretEvery company has a secret behind its success. It may be a recipe or a customer list; businesses protect the data they have worked so hard for, even to valued employees. Unfortunately, some employees cannot help but expose and steal such confidential data.

As an employer, what should you do? How can you prevent this from happening again? Here are the steps to take.

Set strict policies

As a preventive measure, ensure that your company has set strict and clear policies on trade secrets. Employee contracts and handbooks must define what exactly a “trade secret” is together with its proper use, right of access, and the consequences that come with its exposure.

Involve human resources

Human resource departments must be at the forefront when implementing policies and assessing employee misconduct. If you think an employee exposed or stole trade secrets, inform the HR manager immediately to determine appropriate action.

Check the contract

Before executing anything legally, it is important to review the employee’s contract first. Stealing trade secrets is under white collar criminal law here in Houston and other U.S. states. It is a serious claim so verifying the employee’s rights and obligations are necessary.

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Conduct an investigation

Talk to the accused employee about the incident. Ask the person to give a statement and document it accordingly. If there are any witnesses, interview them too. Make sure to gather all data and evidence (photos, videos, screencaps, and documents) that you can present if ever the case goes to court.

Seek legal assistance

If you believe that the employee stole your company’s trade secrets, hire an experienced white-collar lawyer. Explain the case and make sure that the claim you are presenting is definitely a trade secret.

There are states and federal regulators who disregard such cases, especially when a company’s confidentiality policies are vague and poorly explained. A lawyer can determine the case’s actuality and guide you into taking proper legal action.

Remain calm and professional when handling situations like this. Consider your employee and do not forgo compliance no matter how severe the case is. Be mindful and respectful still.