Companies are permitting (or requiring) employees to work remotely right now in response to COVID-19 concerns. This decision, calculated to minimize certain risks, presents new and wide-ranging concerns for the protection of trade secrets. In this “temporary” working remotely environment, employees will have considerable opportunity to access, download, or store sensitive information from company systems and databases. Have you vetted these circumstances or otherwise addressed their use? Think – home printers? Cell phones? Tablets? Personal email accounts? Working in public places such as libraries and coffee shops? Companies may also be inclined to relax otherwise well thought out document management rules or allow for workarounds from the usual security measures in the interest of business continuity. In such an environment, employees may make assumptions that they have wider latitude to email, copy, send, print, or download information, given the circumstances. Compounding these insider risks are a series of unknowns, such as whether your employees’ home networks have security anywhere near on par with in-office network security that could allow outsiders to intrude or access data.

Trade secret litigation has grown exponentially in the United States, in part due to the passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. § 1836, et seq.) in 2016, and in response to the incredible value embodied in companies’ customer lists, knowhow, processes, formulas, business strategies, salary structures, and numerous other forms of intellectual property. If information is valuable, kept secret, and derives value from its secrecy, then it can be a protectable trade secret — as long as the company puts in place reasonable measures to maintain the secrecy.

Whether your company has a sophisticated trade secret protection plan in place or not, the current work environment will stress policies and procedures. Employees pose the biggest threat to securing a company’s valuable IP, and several remote-working concerns raise long-term policy questions to be addressed over time. But, the action items can’t all wait until a calmer moment. Consider the following immediate steps as your company reacts to recent events.

1. Communicate current obligations and requirements in the remote working environment

If you have a robust work-from-home policy, review it now with a specific focus on maintaining your company’s most valuable secrets. If you do not have such a policy, implement something immediately, even if it is temporary. Set clear expectations on what information the business considers to be confidential or trade secrets and what particular steps employees are required to follow when using or accessing that information. Not only does it make business sense to keep employees on notice of company policies and procedures, but federal case law under the DTSA has made clear that employees can only be held to trade secret obligations where they are specific and clear, such that employees are “on notice” of the trade secrets.
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As multinational companies compete for highly skilled employees around the world, they are often confronted with a deceptively simple question: Do they impose a noncompetition agreement on their employees?

This article is part one of a two-part article addressing how multinational companies can use a noncompetition agreement on their highly skilled employees to protect their

Mark your calendars for a new law prohibiting “no-rehire” provisions in settlement agreements. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 749 into law on October 12, 2019. Effective January 1, 2020, “no-rehire” provisions are void as a matter of law in California.

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Despite the hubbub, a new California law purportedly banning mandatory employment arbitration agreements does not completely change the game, and federal law still allows employers to use such agreements.

On October 10, 2019, Governor Newsom signed AB 51 (to be codified as Cal. Lab. Code § 432.6(c)). The new law on its face prohibits employers from requiring California employees to arbitrate certain employment disputes, even if the employees are given the option of opting out of arbitration. More ominously, AB 51 criminalizes retaliation against employees who refuse arbitration, among other remedies.


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On September 24, 2019, the Department of Labor (finally) issued the final rule on the minimum salary threshold required for employees to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white-collar” exemptions.

The final rule:

  • Raises the new minimum salary threshold to $35,568 per year ($684 per week). The previous salary threshold, which had been in place since 2004, was $23,660 ($455 per week).
  • Raises the “highly compensated” employee salary threshold from $100,000 to $107,432 per year.
  • Allows employers to count certain non-discretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions to satisfy up to 10% of an employee’s salary level.
  • Does not impact the job duties test.
  • Is estimated to make an additional 1.3 million more workers eligible for overtime.
  • Will take effect quickly — on January 1, 2020.


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Today California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a landmark bill making it more difficult for companies to engage independent contractors. (See our previous coverage HERE.) Assembly Bill 5 “will help reduce worker misclassification — workers being wrongly classified as ‘independent contractors’ rather than employees, which erodes basic worker protections like the minimum wage, paid sick days and health insurance benefits,” Newsom wrote in a statement.

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This week, the National Labor Relations Board finally came to its senses and adopted the contract coverage test for cases alleging an employer had unlawfully, unilaterally changed employees’ terms and conditions of employment. MV Transportation, Inc. 368 NLRB No. 66 (2019). This week’s decision is likely to change the forum unions select for the enforcement of their labor agreements. Ironically, the decision may compel employers to consider additional bargaining rather than litigation before an arbitrator given there is little opportunity to appeal an adverse arbitration award.

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As previously detailed here, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Epic Systems decision established that requiring employees to waive their right to pursue collective or class actions does not violate the National Labor Relations Act’s “catchall” protection—the right to engage in “concerted activity”—and courts must enforce arbitration agreements as written.

The Supreme Court not only confirmed the legality of class action waivers under the Federal Arbitration Act, but it also narrowly construed the NLRA’s catchall provision as focused on the right to organize unions and bargain collectively in the workplace.

The Court’s holding that the right to engage in such “concerted activities” does not guarantee collective or class action procedures underpins a recent NLRB decision concerning issues of first impression: imposing and requiring as a condition for continued employment a new class action waiver rule in response to collective action.


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On July 22, 2019, a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit withdrew its holding that Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court—the landmark California Supreme Court decision that makes it harder for companies to rely on independent contractors—applies retroactively. The panel held instead that the question should be decided by the state’s highest court.

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