The worst thing most disgruntled former employees ever do is post a gripe on Glassdoor and then move on with their lives. In that case, if you’re the employer, generally you can move on with your business and your life, too.
But some disgruntled former employees seem to show a bloodlust, and show no signs of easing up any time soon. Their reasons may be personal, but for you they can become professional: your finances, reputation, schedule, work-life balance, and your business can be damaged.
Whether you need a cease-and-desist letter or litigation or some measures in-between, Orange County business litigation attorney Mark Chatow can help.
Employees may say or publish any statement that is true, especially if they are merely venting frustrations. In addition, certain types of private communications may be made public legally.
You can sue the former employee for defamation only when his or her words are false and appear designed to harm the business’s reputation.
In California, if the defamatory comments are found to be “defamation per-se,” because they attack a business or profession, you do not need to offer proof of special damage to prevail, and you may be awarded at least nominal damages and attorneys’ fees to expose the false charges and vindicate your company’s reputation.
If former employees have poached your client list for their own new business or for the benefit of their new employer, you may have grounds for a trade secrets misappropriation suit.
Note that employees may approach qualified prospects legally, and may do so even if some of those prospects include your clients. What they generally cannot do is steal your entire client list and begin working it in a focused manner if your client list is kept confidential and qualifies as a trade secret.
If an attorney has demonstrated that a former employee poached clients in large numbers, you may be eligible for injunctive relief, damages equal to your losses, damages equal to the unjust enrichment gained, or payments of reasonable royalties. You may also recover additional damages if the courts rule the theft of your customer list was willful and malicious.
You do not necessarily need an NDA or a non-compete to protect your trade secrets. If you can provide your attorney with evidence that your employee deliberately stole the secrets with intent to misuse them or disclose them, you may receive relief from the court.
You may gain an injunction ordering the employee to cease and desist, as well as damages for actual losses, unjust enrichment, reasonable royalties, and attorneys’ fees.
Even if employees signed a non-compete agreement you generally cannot stop them from pursuing lawful employment. There is an exception: you may pursue a claim if the employee opened a competing business and used your trade secrets to do it.
We can help you determine whether you have a reasonable claim, and we can help you pursue damages for that claim under California law. You may receive injunctive relief, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees.
We can help resolve problems that disgruntled former employees can cause for you and your business, and have helped many Orange County businesses protect their businesses, reputations, and finances. We may even be able to handle your case on a contingency basis. Contact Chatow Law to schedule a free consultation and to discuss your situation.