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Do your employment contracts threaten whistleblowers?

Protecting private company information, including trade secrets, client lists and other intellectual property may be the goal when you are drafting your employment contracts in Florida, particularly when you are considering what an employee may do with the information after leaving the company. According to Reuters, it is essential that the language you use is designed to promote confidentiality without discouraging employees from exercising their rights and responsibilities under state and federal laws.

Whistleblowers who provide information to the Securities and Exchange Commission may be eligible to receive a large financial reward, and you may be concerned that this will motivate unreasonable actions or reports against your company when an employee leaves. However, your company may be subject to penalties if it appears that you are attempting to prohibit such actions, too. For example, a statement in a severance contract that makes it sound as if the employee would forfeit severance pay if awarded money from the SEC may violate federal law. So, you may want to examine documents for language that may imply this, and consider changing or eliminating these provisions completely.

Before adopting a document, you may want to carefully analyze and reconsider any provisions that do not deal directly with the protection of your company’s intellectual property. Experts also recommend including a clause that lets employees know of their rights to report legal violations to federal and state agencies and commissions. This information about employment contracts is general in nature, and is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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