Trade Secrets, Duty of Loyalty
Even if you don’t have a written employment agreement, or if your written agreement doesn’t specifically mention “trade secrets,” “fiduciary duty,” “tortious interference,” or “defamation,” under many state laws you probably have obligations to your employer to protect its interests.
Trade secrets can be any business information that gives a company an advantage over its competition. Trade secrets can include client lists, formulas, processes, methods, techniques, and more. Employees often have obligations to protect and not use their company’s trade secrets to their own advantage.
Most employees also have a fiduciary duty of loyalty to their employer. Your fiduciary duty means that you cannot compete with your employer or take business from your employer. Although this duty ends when you leave the employer, it may restrict what you can do to plan your departure while you remain working for your company.
Employees also have obligations to protect the employer’s (or former employer’s) business prospects and reputation. This means that there are limitations on how you can compete with your former employer and what information you can spread about them.
If you are considering a career move, be careful about what work product you take with you. If you’re not sure about what you are allowed to take with you, talk with a lawyer before making a potentially serious and costly mistake.