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New York Employees: What Your Employer Knows and You Should Learn Now

This is the first in a series of blogs that will be posted periodically.

  1. You Signed It; You’re Bound To It.  Carefully read your offer letter, contract, non-disclosure agreement and other similar documents before you sign them.  Decide whether you can live with the post-employment restrictions, such as not soliciting clients or not engaging in competition for some period of time after your employment ends.  If the agreement is overly restrictive, you should negotiate changes before you sign, because you will not have any leverage after you have begun your employment.  An employment lawyer may be able to assist you with this.  Not all restrictive covenants are enforceable, but you may have to defend a costly lawsuit to void the restrictions.  A variation on this theme:  make sure your potential employer shows you all documents you will be required to sign before you resign from your previous employment. Stock options and restricted stock awards can contain restrictions, as well.
  2. Whose PDA Is It? If your employer bought your blackberry, cell phone, laptop, home computer or other device, it belongs to the employer and you will likely have to return it when your employment ends.  Do not put your personal email, photos, texts, bank statements, correspondence or other information on any company-owned electronic device.  When your employment ends, either the company will possess your information and you will lose those cherished pics of your one-year-old, or, if you delete it, the company may think you have stolen confidential information and come after you.  Defending these claims is costly and can damage your reputation.
  3. What’s Yours Is Yours And What’s Theirs Is Theirs. Every salesperson we know thinks their clients and Outlook contacts belong to them. The law doesn’t necessarily agree.  If you are planning to leave your job, do not solicit your current employer’s clients for your new employer before you have left your current employer, even if you are not subject to any restrictive covenants.  That could be considered disloyalty and lead to your former employer suing you when it finds out. If you plan to bring current clients with you to your new employer, make sure in advance that you are not restricted from soliciting your old clients for your new employer (as described in #1 above.)   If you are unsure, consult an employment lawyer before soliciting those clients.
  4. Your Work Belongs to Your Employer. Most people are proud of their work and they want to take copies with them for future reference.  If your written work is the subject of a Confidential Information Agreement, or otherwise contains confidential and proprietary information, you are risking being sued if you take those copies with you and do not have your employer’s permission.  If you are a registered rep in the financial services industry, this could lead to reporting violations on your U-5.   If your work was already made public, then it is no longer Confidential Information and you can keep copies.
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