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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Departed Employee Program

Breaking up is hard to do given the increase in short-term relationships with employees. Companies are now experiencing aspects of employee turnover that can be messy. Specifically, we are talking about the data mess that needs to be cleaned up after breaking up with an employee.

“As employees’ transition, lawsuits between companies, lost business opportunities, and spoliation sanctions due to loss of evidence can cost tens of thousands of dollars to tens of millions,” shared Greg Freemyer, Director of Forensics and Disputes at SullivanStrickler.  “Eliminating these risks and associated loss of revenue is the goal of our Departed Employee Program.”

According to the Work Institute’s 2019 report, 38 percent of employees leave in their first year with an additional 40 percent leaving in years 2-5. With a majority of employees coming and going in a flash, this poses challenges in locating all the company data. Data is now more portable than ever due to cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Employees routinely perform innocuous activities such as forwarding an email to their spouse for printing at home or downloading a document to their personal devices. Upon departing, 87 percent of employees take intellectual property. This data has to be found and returned as per the contractual obligations of their employment agreement

With larger percentages of Americans working from home, company data can truly travel anywhere. In the instance where employees leave their current company to join another, preserving data can be at risk especially if a company has not taken proactive measures.

How do you make sure this doesn’t happen at your organization?

The best first step is to always stay proactive. However, staying proactive is challenging when a typical IT or security team member is focusing on other daily responsibilities. It is not always easy or convenient to keep up with certain electronic assets.

We recommend two options for off-boarding employees.

Option 1:

In an effort to be proactive, periodically image the systems and devices of employees who have access to company IP. This preserves any evidence that might be required at a later date. Dependent on the employee’s role or seniority this may be more frequent.

Forensic imaging helps to stop and detect malicious activity and provides preservation of legal hold data. We are routinely brought in to assist companies to do this giving IT Security and the legal team access to the data to review for inappropriate activity.

Figure 1 – Work Institute 2019 Retention Report

Option 2:

Hire a lawyer or forensic consultant to actually sit with an executive to make sure his or her computer and all other devices are clean of corporate intellectual property. We often do not see this being offered by companies, but we advise our clients to incorporate this into their current off-boarding process.

For example, if an employee has been working for five years with the company, the chances of them having a large amount of intellectual property on a personal device is greater. They also may not feel comfortable with having someone from IT sit with them to analyze the data on his or her personal device. Bringing in a trusted third-party to locate and review data for company assets and return them provides the employee greater comfort and also assures the company that all data has been located and returned. This option is usually used in the case of executive or senior employees but can also be used for employees who have access to vital company information.

Breaking up doesn’t have to be hard

Smart organizations take measures to protect themselves from both inadvertent and intentional data loss or theft by recently terminated employees as well as current team members.  While the implementation of policies and using the latest technology will prevent unintended data theft, those with more nefarious intentions will still find a way.

Working closely with your outside counsel and a trusted third-party like SullivanStrickler can help. Forensic experts will use tools and techniques to help mitigate data loss or to identify a potential theft.

SullivanStrickler offers our clients these services as part of our Departed Employee Program and Off-boarding as a Service. Utilizing a combination of proprietary and industry standard tools and years of experience, our forensic experts can identify, collect, and preserve the important data that could be at risk if left on personal devices of departing employees. If you’re interested in learning more about these programs or scheduling a consultation, contact us.