Not every company has to worry that an employee’s last day on the job will be the day the employee takes down the President (more on this below). But all companies should have policies and procedures in place to prevent a departing employee from doing harm to the company.
So this happened today, for about 11 minutes Donald Trump ceased to exist … at least on Twitter (and coincidentally, a lot of celebratory noise was coming from Chief of Staff John Kelly’s office for those same 11 minutes). According to reports, Mr. Trump’s account was intentionally deactivated by someone on their last day on the job.
Mr. Trump’s Twitter account was replaced with Twitter’s standard error message, which read “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” Twitter’s official account later reported that Mr. Trump’s account had been temporarily deactivated due to a “human error.” This “error” was later attributed to a rogue Twitter employee who was working his or her last day.
Terminating the employment relationship often happens because of a resignation by an employee or discharge by the employer. And how an employer handles different terminations may vary, depending on the reason employees are departing, the employees’ length of service or performance record, and the employee’s role in the company.
But regardless of why the employment relationship ended, all employers should have a plan in place for how the employment will wind down.
The end of the employment relationship is often where the trouble starts for employers.
An important decision for employers arises when an employee gives some notice of resignation, perhaps the standard two-weeks notice. Should your company continue the employment for the entire notice or something less? The example provided by the Twitter employee who took down Mr. Trump (and everyone thought it would be Robert Mueller) shows why you may not want a departing employee to remain actively employed after giving his or her notice of resignation.
Similarly, I’m representing a company in a trade secret misappropriation case. The lawsuit involves a former high-ranking manager initiated discussions with his manager about leaving the company. This discussion took place in early September 2016 with a resignation effective on September 28, 2016. In the interim, the employee misappropriated over 5 gigabytes of data from the company’s network. This misappropriation happened (or as the defendant explained it, the employer simply “misunderstood my intention”) because the individual continued to be employed after giving notice of his resignation.
Recommendations for handling employees leaving the company.
Here are a few additional items your company may want to consider for departing employees:
- Exit interviews. Many employers ask their departing employees to participate in an exit interview, either in person or by completing a written questionnaire. That’s fine. But it is also a good idea to conduct a pre-exit investigation to make sure there has been no suspicious downloads or transfers of company information.
- Reminder about post-employment restrictions. If the departing employee signed a noncompete agreement, non-disclosure restriction, or other post-employment restriction, the employee should be reminded of those obligations.
- Employer property. You should have a policy for reminding employees to return all property belonging to employers before their last day.
Contact employment attorney Jason Shinn for more information about this post, employee terminations, or HR best practices. Since 2001, Mr. Shinn has represented employers and employees in the areas of employment laws, wrongful terminations, and noncompete and trade secret claims.