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California Employment Agreement Disputes: Combating Trade Secret Misappropriation

Greg Wood Dec. 1, 2022

Businesses are not the big impersonal, deep pocket, behemoth that many people think. In fact, most people view the business they started or now work for to be a very large and personal part of their lives. From the outside, a business is often perceived as an impersonal, purely economic endeavor. However, from the inside, the business provides jobs, funds lifestyles, support families and often embodies the inspiration, philosophy, and hard work of employees, managers and owners – something that is more often than not a very personal thing.

Hiring decisions therefore become very important and personal not only to the employer but to fellow employees. Therefore, it can be devastating to the employer and other employees to learn that an employee has violated their employment agreement by disclosing trade secrets, betraying a trust or acting in a way that damages the business. Because of the emotional nature of the employment relationship, it becomes critical for an attorney or mediator to be particularly aware and sensitive to the emotional aspects of the dispute and to take steps to calm emotions and defuse anger when dealing with people involved in California employment agreement disputes.

The Emotion Factor

It’s up to you as the attorney to provide a calm and objective point of view to your clients, so they can avoid making mistakes in the heat of passion. It’s perfectly natural for your client to feel betrayed, angry, or even personally hurt when an employee is attempting to take your proprietary intellectual property or trade secrets and use them for their own personal gain. But succumbing to the emotion of the situation will not serve them well. This is where a well trained mediator may be able to assist.

As the attorney in the equation, knowing the law is not enough. You must also be able to find effective ways to calm the emotions. As a mediator, filtering raw emotion so as to communicate interests and issues that will be really heard by all sides is critical if the dispute is to be resolved. This means patience and deliberateness must be exercised even when patience and deliberateness does not feel natural or welcome by the disputing parties. Yet when it comes to dealing with this sort of perceived betrayal, those are precisely the reactions that can bring understanding, apology, forgiveness and resolution to the case so that real justice can be achieved.