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Marsha411JD, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 20363
Experience:  Licensed Attorney with 29 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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I recently started a new job 4 weeks ago. I resigned because

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I recently started a new job 4 weeks ago. I resigned because I felt that the company was becoming unprofessional and unethical in its practices. This view was shared by many employees. During the last 4 weeks a number of managers as well as technicians have left the company and accepted positions at this new company. I have not reached out to call any of people from my old company to "recruit" them. When people call me asking for details about the company looking for other employment opportunities I direct them to the person in charge of hiring. Also, my old company used Dropbox to store price lists, tracking tools and training material. When I left the company my access to everything but the training material was stopped. I noticed this a few days after leaving but told nobody because these training classes on Dropbox where not proprietary trade secret information classes. They are classroom notes on information that I could look up in any of my engineering text books. Two days ago I reviewed the classes in Dropbox in my home just killing time on my iPad.

Yesterday I get a phone call from the president of my old company stating that I'm a dishonest thief and that he has hard evidence of a breach of a confidentiality agreement signed in 2004. He said he has ground to sue me because I accessed his confidential files. When I told him that the only information available for my review were class notes on information that I could lookup in any textbook he said it didn't matter the information but what mattered is that I looked it up on his Dropbox. I then asked why he did not stop service completely on my Dropbox. He said because he wanted to see if I was going to access anything on there and I did. He then said he would not sue if I would stop stealing his technicians. I told him that many employees were unhappy and looking for other employment, I just happened to be the first to leave, and that I was not stealing employees. Any of the employees would agree to this. He said stay away from my employees or I'll sue you for breach of a confidentiality agreement.

This call caught me off guard which I think is how the president of my old company wanted. When I thought about things I called him back and request he send me a copy of the confidentiality agreement. He then got very upset saying that he was going to drop it but I refuse to let it go. I asked him again for copies and he said I was provided with copies years ago. I told I no longer have those copies and would like copies for review now. He then went on about how I was a thief and a dishonest crook and that the only way I'll get copies is from his lawyer. I asked if the HR office would give me copies of the confidentiality agreement and he said no and that I'd be hearing from his lawyer. And that he'd sue me first and then sue the company I currently work for after spewing profanities. (Just a small example of why I started looking for other employment when he took over as president)

My question is, am I in any danger of him coming after me in a lawsuit over a confidentiality agreement? And was I out of line for requesting copies of this agreement? And what should I do now?

A side question is this president on numerous occasions held the managers' paychecks for months at a time stating that sales numbers were low, even though we were paid on commission based on sales, is this legal?

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for the information and your questions. Without having actual knowledge of the language of the confidentiality agreement I wouldn't be able to say with certainty whether or not you have any legal exposure. However, if it is a true confidentiality agreement, then unless you shared this information with your employer, then I don't see where the exposure would be under that agreement. However, accessing the "Dropbox" without permission may be another issue. I have no idea what exactly this dropbox is or where it is retained, but if it is the company's intellectual property, then there might be an issue of computer hacking or theft of proprietary information. That I wouldn't be able to say, but certainly if you are contact by an attorney for this company, you should decline to say anything and immediately contact a local attorney for representation.

As far as requesting a copy of your confidentiality agreement, you weren't out of line, but the employer is correct. In Maryland, an employer has no duty to provide a copy of anything that might be in your personnel file absent a subpeona or a court order. Some states do have laws mandating that employers provide this type of documentation, but not Maryland.

Finally, in term of the wage issue. If the money that was withheld is a set or guaranteed salary, commission or bonus, then it would be unlawful to withhold it. However, if it is a discretionary bonus, then the emploeyr never has to pay it.

Please let me know if you have any related follow up questions. I would be glad to assist you further if I can.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
The Dropbox is a cloud type data storage system. The administrator of the account gives you access to the files. Dropbox was then downloaded on my iPad to give me mobile access(this system was set up by the company, not me). I did not have to hack or enter any passwords to open he dropbox. It opens when the app opens. I have since deleted this app even though I'm the one that paid for the app.
Thank you for that additional information. There may still an issue of accessing the cloud without permission since you are no longer employed with this company. But again, I can't say without a lot more information, including from the company's perspective. However, if the confidentiality agreement is a typical agreement, this activity would not violate it.
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