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What can an employee take when leaving a company?

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2022 | Intellectual Property |

An executive gets offered a position with another company. They put in a letter of resignation with the business they currently work at, and they agree on an exit strategy. Perhaps the executive will stay with the company for the next month to help with the transition, for example.

But the time is going to come when that person leaves the office for the last time and cleans out their desk. What are they allowed to take and what is prohibited? This may seem like a simple question, but it can have major ramifications.

Intellectual property issues

The problem is that employees could take items that may violate intellectual property protections. For instance, employees are generally allowed to take any of their personal items home with them. But what if an employee has a phone or a computer that they used for work? What types of documents are on that computer? What type of access does it grant them? This doesn’t mean that the company gets to keep the computer, but it may mean that files have to be deleted before the employee can take it.

Another thing that often raises questions is when employees have contacts that they’ve created by working for that company. Say that the executive has a Rolodex or an email list full of million-dollar clients. They have met with these clients over the years and created the list, but can they take it with them? Or is that list technically the property of their employer? If they do take all of those contacts, would that cause financial harm to the company?

Differing positions

You can imagine how employees and companies can take very different stances on these things. An employee may honestly feel like the property is theirs or that they alone should benefit from the fruits of their labor. The company may feel like the employee is just trying to take advantage of them or even violate clauses within the contract. When the two sides cannot agree, then it’s time to look into the legal options that they have.

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