Can You Keep A ‘Secret’ in the Workplace?

Tung Pham is facing a maximum possible sentence of 160 years’ imprisonment, a $2.25 million fine and a special assessment of $900 after being charged with stealing trade secrets regarding pastes used in the manufacture of solar cells from his former employer, the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Patch reported on December 14, 2011. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Attorney Zane David Memeger have charged the 46-year-old Pham, who currently resides in California, with theft of trade secrets and wire fraud.

Trade secrets litigation in California can be extremely complex issue, as state courts can recognize everyday pieces of data being afforded protection as a trade secret under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA). The UTSA utilizes the term “misappropriation” instead of theft, and its specific legal definition includes either acquisition by improper means, or the use or disclosure of trade secrets.

It is not surprising that a majority of information theft for businesses occurs internally, nor is it shocking to learn that many employees who leave their company end up working for a competitor in the same field. These cases are difficult to prosecute. Still, just as is the case with Mr. Pham, such cases are still occasionally sought and can be serious issues in employment law. Do you know what information your employer would consider a trade secret at your job?

Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment lawyers