Happy New Year!
Last year the Texas Supreme Court altered the non-compete landscape in Marsh v. Cook. As lower courts construe the opinion we will see what its impact is on employers and employees. The takeaway from the opinion should be that employers will attempt to offer other forms of consideration, like stock options, signing bonuses, etc., in exchange for post-employment agreements like non-competes and non-solicits. The days of limited non-competes/non-solicits based only upon the exchange of propriety information, trade secrets, or training appears to be over. This means industries that typically do not use non-competes could. That said, employers should be skeptical of the ramifications of the Marsh opinion until there is guidance from other courts.
Employers should be doing all they can to protect their business in 2012 from the departing employee. The cold reality is in an economy short on jobs, potential employees will be more willing to sign non-compete agreements. In addition to the run-of-the-mill non-compete, employers should also consider non-solicitation agreements, anti-raid provisions, and even a garden leave policy (all discussed here previously).
Besides post-employment covenants there are general day to day business practices that are a necessity. True trade secrets need to be protected through restricted access that incorporates some type of password as well as protections that prevent the employee from emailing such information or putting it on a jump drive and walking out the door. It routinely happens and employers need to be vigilant in protecting proprietary information.
Finally, have termination/transition policies in place. Once an employee is fired or determines they are going to leave, cut off their email and end their access to the computer network or other sensitive information. It also makes sense to audit any of their recent activity to determine if they have taken proprietary information through jump drives, email, or other storage devices. It pays to be paranoid.