A major concern for many employers is how to protect sensitive information from being discovered or used when an employee leaves for a competitor. A recent Sixth Circuit opinion, Orthofix, Inc. v. Hunter, highlighted the tools available for employers to protect sensitive information in such circumstances. There are three common layers of protection an employer may use to protect information in the hands of a former employee from reaching a competitor.
First, Ohio provides statutory protection for “trade secrets” through the Ohio Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“OUTSA”). The OUTSA defines “trade secrets” relatively narrowly and often does not cover all information which an employer may want to protect.
Second, as reinforced in Orthofix, employers may include nondisclosure provisions in employment contracts, prohibiting employees from sharing information protected in the provision both during and after their employment. These provisions may cover a wide range of confidential information that does not reach the level of a “trade secret,” but is more than the general knowledge and skills gained by an employee. In more limited circumstances, employers may even include “noncompete covenants,” preventing former employees from working for competitors for a period of time.
Finally, employers may, and should, create protocols for when employees with access to sensitive information terminate their employment, such as wiping electronically-stored confidential information from the employee’s devices.
Preventative measures and quick responses are necessary to protect businesses in these circumstances. We can help businesses safeguard their confidential information from competitors by taking steps before, during, and after the employment relationship with their workers. Don’t wait until it is too late and your competitors already have an unfair advantage. For more questions, please contact us.