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Finding a good and loyal employee is like “sifting for gold”.  I mean that figuratively and literally as it is one of the most painful lessons you will ever learn as a business owner.  Another applicable adage I myself have gleaned the hard way is that “no good deed goes unpunished”.

I know this all sounds moribund, and I apologize in advance.  Well, to be honest, I take that back.  It is a key takeaway that a business owner either learns at inception or never comprehends.  Lack of awareness leads not only to likely business failure but incomprehensible frustration and bewilderment.

As the owner of law firms since 1996, I have suffered a myriad of indignities including employees who have outright stolen money from me, destroyed employee files, gained access to confidential employee data, and gleefully “two-timed” me while feigning loyalty.

As a Texas Employment attorney exclusively representing businesses, I have also witnessed firsthand the full bouquet of deception.  Employees will readily download the IP family jewels including source codes, marketing data, and client/vendor lists and make a quick exit to the nearest competitor willing to pay just a bit more.

As to the “no good deed” admonition, that is the most difficult to stomach as I never seem to learn that lesson notwithstanding 37 years in the legal business.  I have been victim to employee over-compensation, succumbing to frantic pleas for financial assistance, and worse.  The nicer I am, the more entitled is the employee.  I am also treated like – (insert the word) – on the way out.  Every time.

If I sound upset about all of these employee misdeeds – you got it right.  As my first partner warned me before venturing out on my own – “employees are trouble”. Boy, was he right!

So, what do you do about this workforce threat? What legal steps can you take to insulate your assets and emotional well-being?  Here are a few tips from one employer to another:

  1. Always have an employment agreement- This is the most effective step you can take to protect your business and its trade secrets.  Whether you are hiring a management position or clerk, require everyone to execute a comprehensive employment agreement which protects your confidential information.
  2.  Understand what information is protectable – Trade Secrets which are often referred to as “confidential information” relate to data and methods utilized by your company not available to the general public.  Examples include company compensation, marketing/sales strategies, preferred vendors, client lists and other proprietary information.  A powerful state law affords employers legal protection against the theft of trade secrets – the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act or TUTSA.  If you even “suspect” that an employee is pilfering your trade secrets, your business can get an immediate injunction which is a court order prohibiting the rogue employee from completing the evil act.
  3. Have the employment agreement ready to go – This is critical and should be drafted by an experienced Texas Employment Lawyer.  Do not lift the provisions off the internet as they need to be crafted specifically for your operation to be enforceable.
  4. Have all employees sign the employment agreement – As an illustration, I have represented restaurant owners in situations where their wait staff have stolen proprietary menus on their flight to the next employer and promise of a higher paycheck.  Of course, the best candidate for theft is often the employee with access to the most confidential information including management and particularly, sales managers.
  5. Consider noncompete clauses – Contrary to popular belief, these restrictions on future employment are enforceable in Texas but subject to strict compliance with state law.  Your Texas Employment Attorney will advise as to what provisions need to be included in your agreement to increase the likelihood of enforcement.
  6. Beware of the TWC – The Texas Workforce Commission or TWC is not your friend as they are invariably pro-employee.  I have witnessed the full array of abuse and bias which can be heartbreaking.  Often your best employee or seemingly loyal colleague will turn you in.  The underlying cause is typically jealousy or some unspoken grudge. The takeaway is to make sure that your business is TWC compliant in all respects particularly with the typical flashpoints such as the improper use of independent contractors and compensation.
  7. Watch out for the EEOC – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC is always lurking out there and ready to strike.  This may sound like paranoia or overreaching – but it is not.  These are important laws to protect against discrimination but are invariably abused by employees attempting to get something for nothing.  I have seen this time and time again.  The only way to reduce exposure is to consult with an experienced Texas Employment Lawyer in advance to ensure that your business is posting the proper disclosures and has the reporting procedures and training in place to protect against a discrimination charge based on race or gender.

Bottom Line –

Avoid the traps which ensnare so many business owners.  A few simple steps can make a huge difference and spare you not only financial loss but severe emotional distress.  For real.

At the Moster Law Firm, we are here to assist business owners.  Give us a call for a complimentary consultation.

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