Jumping ship: what you can and can’t take with you

When some people leave a job, the only thing they want to take with them from their office is their dignity, and maybe some family photos. Others leave with contact lists, project plans, marketing collateral, code snippets and other work-related files from their computers. Still other employees take the opportunity to loot the supply cabinet for notebooks, pens, flash drives and other items that they don’t want to buy from Staples (SPLS).
 
As IT professionals prepare to jump ship from their current employers, they need to know what they legally can and can’t take with them. The same goes for the unfortunate employees at companies that are still conducting layoffs, who may be tempted sneak off with sensitive corporate information or company assets such as laptops after being handed a pink slip.
 
Jon Heimerl, director of strategic security for Solutionary, a provider of information security services, says departing employees can get in big legal trouble if they take corporate information or physical assets without their employer’s permission. Depending on what the employee takes, the employer can sue the employee or press theft charges against the employee through the police.
 
“I know a company that had an ex-employee that it had laid off walk into a competitor’s office with proprietary information on a big R&D project,” says Heimerl. “The company sent a letter to the competitor from a lawyer that said, ‘We know you hired this employee. We have proof that he took proprietary information with him, and we are going to sue you and the employee.’ The competitor withdrew its employment offer, and it took the ex-employee 12 months to find another job.”
 
Here, Heimerl explains what you can and can’t take from an employer when you leave a job.