Here’s What To Do When You Receive An Employment Cease & Desist Letter
Having top talent on your team is your first step toward success. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find top talent that is not engaged with another employer leaving most employers with only one option; poaching talent from competitors.
Due to the increasing cases of talent poaching, employers require their employees to have employment contracts that stipulate their terms of employment and what happens when they leave.
Bringing in such an employee on your team can land you and the employee in legal problems with their former employer, which often starts with the other employers issuing you or the employee with a cease and desist letter.
But What Is a Cease and Desist Letter
A cease and desist letter is a legal document sent by a complainant to another party demanding that they stop engaging in conduct that the complainant feels violates their rights. That said, an employment cease and desist letter is usually sent by an employer to an employee or former employee, requiring them to stop violating the terms of their existing contract or post-employment restrictions.
An employment cease and desist letter can also be addressed to an employer for aiding and abetting an employee in violating the terms of their contract with their former employer.
Situations Where an Employer May Send a Cease and Desist Letter
There are several situations where an employer may need to send a cease and desist letter, including:
- Intellectual property infringement. Intellectual property infringement is when an employee shares trade secrets with an unauthorized party, such as a competitor.
- Defamation and slander. Defamation and slander occur when an employee defames and slanders an employer’s fellow employees in a manner that affects their business or well-being.
- Harassment and discrimination. For example, an employee shows blatant discrimination against a person based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
- Violation of non-compete agreements. Non-compete agreements are agreements signed between employers and employees, binding an employee from opening a similar business or working for a competitor within a specified time of leaving the first employer.
- Abetting a violation. An employer can issue a cease and desist letter to an employee’s current employer informing them of the employee’s violation and demanding they stop abetting the violation or face legal consequences.
How to Determine Its Authenticity?
There isn’t a standard format for a cease and desist letter, which can make determining its authenticity a bit tricky. But there are a few ways to determine the authenticity of a cease and desist letter that you may want to pay attention to. These include:
1. The Sender’s Identity
An authentic cease and desist letter must come from an actual person. If it comes from your former employer, it must contain the employer’s name and contact information, such as phone and email. It can also come from the employer’s lawyer, but it will indicate the reason for the letter.
2. Check for Proper Legal Language
While there is no standard format for a cease and desist letter, the language used can help you judge its authenticity because a lawyer usually drafts it. So look out for legal phrases such as “cease and desist,” “confidential information,” and “legal action.” However, a lack of such wordings doesn’t always mean that the letter is not authentic.
3. Check for Letterhead and Signature
Every lawyer worth their salt will go to all lengths to make a cease and desist letter look legitimate because the idea is to get a positive response. For example, they will always include a letterhead with the name of their law firm, address, and contact information.
Also, they will likely append their signature at the bottom. If it doesn’t have a letterhead or signature, there is a chance it may not be authentic.
Responding to a Cease and Desist Letter
You do not want to rule out an employment cease and desist letter as unauthentic until you are 100% sure it is. The best way to do this is by having a lawyer look at your letter and initiate correspondence with the sender.
So, the first thing to do when served with a cease and desist letter is to get a lawyer. A lawyer will help you review the contents of your letter and advice you on the proper course of action.
If the terms of the letter are something your lawyer advises that you comply with, then it is best to take their advice, but you look for a second opinion if you are unsatisfied with their advice. In most cases, a cease and desist letter is more of a warning shot, and complying with the orders can mean avoiding legal consequences.
If you cannot comply with the order, you can have your lawyer relay the same to the sender and prepare for legal action should the sender file a lawsuit. This is where the quality of your legal representation becomes a critical factor. So ensure that you work with a lawyer with experience dealing with similar cases and a record of success.