In a recent “precedential” opinion, the Third Circuit, applying New Jersey law, approved an employer’s use of an additional, extra-stringent restrictive covenant for its high-performing salespeople, subject to careful blue lining by the court to ensure that the covenant does not create an unreasonable burden for the employees. ADP, LLC, the well-known provider of payroll and other human resources services, required its new sales employees, as a condition of employment, to sign a Sales Representative Agreement and a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Together, the two agreements essentially prohibited the employee, for one year after the termination of employment, from soliciting ADP customers “with which the Employee was involved or exposed” while employed at ADP. Once employed, ADP’s sales staff could earn stock awards by meeting certain sales targets. But to receive an award, the employee had to sign a third agreement, a Restrictive Covenant Agreement, which imposed still more post-employment restrictions on the employee. Among other things, the Restrictive Covenant Agreement essentially prohibited the employee for two years after termination from soliciting all current and prospective ADP customers, whether or not the employee was “involved or exposed” to the customer while employed by ADP. The Restrictive Covenant Agreement also contained a geographic...
Tagged: Trade Secret
Effective October 1, 2015, employers in the State of Connecticut are restricted from requiring or requesting employees and job applicants to provide access to “personal online accounts,” which include email, social media and retail-based Internet web sites used exclusively for personal reasons. Specifically, the new law (Public Act No. 15-6) (“the Act”), prohibits employers from requesting or requiring employees or job applicants to: provide the username and password, password, or other means of authentication to access an individual’s personal online account; authenticate or access a personal online account for the employer to view; or invite an employer to accept an invitation or be compelled to accept an invitation from an employer to join a group related to a personal online account.
NLRB Judge Strikes Down Employee Handbook Confidentiality Policy — Including Protection of Customer and Vendor Data
An employee handbook containing policies prohibiting (1) the disclosure of confidential company information, including personnel data, (2) use of the employer’s logo or trademark except as authorized by the company and (3) obstruction and interference with government investigations, including a requirement to notify the company’s human resources representatives or law department and to obtain approval to release information for a government investigation was found to violate Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) in Macy’s Inc., JD(NY)-21-15. According to the ALJ’s decision, Macy’s employees when reading the policies could reasonably construe such policies to restrict their rights under Section 7 of the NLRA to engage in protected concerted activity for their mutual aid or protection.
New Jersey Court Finds Violation of Computer Related Offenses Act and Other Unlawful Conduct, Ordering Disgorgement of Profits, Attorneys’ Fees and Punitive Damages
In B&H Securities, Inc. v. Duane Pinkey et al., the New Jersey Superior Court found that former employees taking computer files from – and using the files to unfairly compete with – their employer violated the Computer Related Offenses Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:38A-1 et seq. (“CROA”), and breached other common law and contractual obligations. The Court awarded actual damages, based on plaintiff B&H’s lost profits of $737,087.00, as well as punitive damages of $100,000 and attorneys’ fees under the CROA.
The federal government continues to take aim at those who violate trade secrets rights. On December 28, 2012, the Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act of 2012 (S. 3642) became law, expanding the definition of trade secrets under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). In addition, as previously reported in a Gibbons IP Law Alert blog, the President is expected to sign legislation recently passed by Congress that triples the damages for a violation of trade secrets protection laws and provides technical changes to patent applications and protections. Also worthy of note is an 82-page report from the U.S. Department of Justice issued last month detailing federal enforcement efforts concerning trade secrets theft.
New Jersey District Court Enjoins Former Financial Services Employee from Taking Customer Information
In a case to be noted by financial services entities that are signatories to the “Protocol for Broker Recruiting,” a New Jersey District Court issued a preliminary injunction to a financial services employer, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (“plaintiff”) to prevent a former financial advisor employee from retaining certain client information that he downloaded from his computer prior to his departure from plaintiff. Plaintiff was a party to the “Protocol for Broker Recruiting” that prescribes a method for a departing employee to retain certain client information when leaving for another financial services institution. To grant the injunction, the Court found that plaintiff showed it likely would succeed on its underlying breach of contract claim, it would suffer immediate irreparable harm absent the injunction, defendant would not suffer harm if enjoined, and the injunction favors the public’s interest. The Court essentially decided that if the Protocol is not followed in the first instance, a departing financial representative’s subsequent compliance is tainted and insufficient to withstand subsequent legal challenge.
New Jersey employers should be aware that yesterday Governor Chris Christie signed into law the New Jersey Trade Secrets Act (“the Act”), which for the first time codifies the law in New Jersey concerning the misappropriation of trade secrets. The new law is derived largely from, although is not identical to, the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, variations of which have been adopted in the great majority of states. New Jersey companies who are concerned about potential trade secret misappropriation by current or former employees should study the new law carefully.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) is a federal law that, in part, makes it a crime to access a computer in an unauthorized manner. In the employment context, the statute has proven valuable in protecting confidential and proprietary information that employees can access on their employers’ electronic systems. Recent decisions by the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Third Circuits emphasize the breadth of the CFAA’s application to the workplace.