Ask Leslie: How Do I Protect My Organization's Information When A Manager Leaves For A Competitor?

By Leslie Zieren, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

My manager put organizational files containing trade secrets and other proprietary information on a USB drive before he resigned. He headed out the door with the drive to work for a competitor. We are working with counsel on this matter, but for the future, what can we put in place to prevent this outcome?


As a condition of being hired, present for signature a written non-disclosure agreement to the successful applicant regarding protection of trade secrets and other proprietary information. This agreement will contain what information is considered trade secrets and/or proprietary.

For current employees, present to the agreement to them, in addition to some separate legal consideration to support the agreement, like a sum of money.

Train your employees on your trade secret/proprietary information protection policy. Only let those employees with business need-to-know have access to this information, and track who accessed it, the particular information, and when.

Consider digital monitoring and/or video surveillance to keep track of employee behaviors within the workplace. Are any employees taking calls from competitors on work phones, working odd hours at the office, or downloading large amounts of data from work servers, for example?

A sudden and surprise resignation without any warning is also a possible sign. Make sure you conduct an exit interview and re-state your non-disclosure policy, make sure all your organization-issued devices are returned, and confirm that no copies of trade secrets or proprietary information remains with the departing employee.

Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.

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