Other legalities that deserve close attention is when you decide to start
your own business, most especially, if you will be in direct competion with
your former employer. Do not take even so much as a paper clip upon
departure let alone copies of licensed software. Make sure someone signs off
on the items you are removing  from the building (even if personal) and get
a copy of it before you leave. An employer in California can make
accusations of theft and it's very hard to defend against.

As the owner of a firm that was sued by a former employer claiming theft of
everything but the clothes on his back, I can attest to two arduous years of
defending our right to be in business. The best step my partner and I made
was consulting with an attorney and having documented the proper steps "to
leave", and following them allowed us to bring a powerful lever to the table
during court mediation. All of our new designs were "clean sheet of paper"
and we were able to demonstrate that they were completely different in
approach and execution than the products we designed for him. The fact that
he continually refused to invest in the suggestions we made and that we had
not signed any "agreements" helped as well.

Even though being ethical and abiding by the letter and spirit of the law
did not stop us from being sued, it did play a very significant part in the
ultimate disposition of the case. Make sure your business insurance covers
you from top to bottom including defamation. That caused our carrier to
bring in representation. The other claims in the summons were not covered by
our insurance. A bit of luck for us! It's hard enough to run a business and
face the distractions caused by a lawsuit as well.

As suggested by a number of your missives, communication with your employer
about how "tools" are to be used and getting it in writing makes it clear
(as mauch as is possible in our litigious world) what you can and can't do.
And don't sign anything until your own lawyer has a chance to review it. I
suggest this to my employees if they have concerns or questions about our
set of rules regarding employment and conduct. Follow the rules or move on
if they don't fit.

Cam Hamilton VP
Hamilton-Kinder LLC

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