Newly Enacted Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act: Providing Employers Protection from ex-employees

Posted on August 26, 2013 by in Blog

The newly enacted Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act provides companies greater protection for their trade secrets and expands the list of available legal remedies to address actual and anticipated harm.

This Act will come into play in situations in which employees leave their current positions to join a competing company. The most significant change to this Act is that the new version expands the definition of “trade secret” to include a company’s financial information, as well as lists of current and prospective clients and suppliers.

In addition, the Act authorizes the remedy of injunctive relief for actual and threatened misappropriation of trade secrets.

The Act also creates a presumption in favor of the entry of protective orders during litigation to regulate access to, and disclosure of, the trade secret information forming the basis of the dispute.

The Act allows Texas courts to put limitations on the disclosure of trade secrets so that the information is restricted to the parties’ attorneys and expert witnesses. In addition, the act authorizes courts to seal court records and hold in-camera hearings in the judge’s chambers rather than in open court when trade secret information is discussed.

More notably, the Act allows for the recovery of attorneys’ fees. In situations where the trade secrets were stolen willfully or maliciously, a plaintiff can recover attorneys’ fees. Likewise, the court can also award attorneys’ fees to the defendant in cases where the suit was filed in bad faith.

While the new Act does provide companies heightened legal protection for their trade secrets and available remedies, the Act excludes from the definition of “trade secret” any information learned through the “reverse engineering” of a competitor’s product.

For more information on this or any other issues, please contact me at mmurrah@outsourcegc.com.

This post is based on the information provided by Ogletree Deakins available here.

Questions You Shouldn’t Ask or Answer During an Interview

Posted on August 12, 2013 by in Blog

Job-seekers have to be ready to respond to any interview question asked of them, but not every question has to be answered.

To ensure that employers do not discriminate against candidates based on age, gender, race, health and family arrangements, there are certain regulations which restrict the type of questions which are permissible during an interview. Below, we explore several topics that may be problematic and should not be asked of potential employees:

Questionable Questions

Let’s take a look at a few topics that may be problematic.

  • Age: Does anyone like to be asked their age unless just turning 21? Probably not. While an interviewer may ask whether a candidate is over the age of 18 or 21, he or she may not ask for a specific age.
  • Nationality: An interviewer can ask whether a candidate is legally allowed to work in the U.S., but he or she can’t ask about the applicant’s nationality or status as a citizen.
  • Religious beliefs: Same goes for questions that ask about religious beliefs. The interviewer may be in the right if he or she needs to know if the interviewee can work on certain holidays, but otherwise, this topic should be off limits.
  • Health: While in many states an interviewer cannot ask if a candidate smokes, he or she may inquire as to whether the applicant has ever violated any corporate policies on alcohol or tobacco. Furthermore, an employer may ask whether the person being interviewed uses illegal drugs, is able to lift a given weight, or can reach items at a specific height. They also can ask if the individual is capable of completing certain tasks associated with the job and if any reasonable accommodations might be needed.
  • Family status: Employers want to know about an applicant’s availability which may sound like a legitimate concern. They cross the red line, however, when they try to determine if a candidate has children or plans to have children in the future. An interviewer also cannot ask about an applicant’s maiden name or marital status.
  • Criminal record: A prospective employer is allowed to ask the applicant whether or not he or she has ever been convicted of a crime that relates to the job, but may be restricted from asking whether the candidate has ever been arrested.
  • Military service: An interviewer cannot discriminate against a member of the National Guard or Reserves. He or she can, however, ask if a candidate will anticipate any extended time away from work.

Acing the Interview Process


The interview process can be a stressful time for employers and employees alike, but it will be a smoother process if you have a basic understanding of what can and can’t be asked during these initial meetings.

As a candidate being interviewed, remember that if you’re asked a question which you’re not comfortable answering, or you think may be illegal, be sure to keep a positive attitude and try not to focus on the negative and instead deliver an answer which showcases your ability to fulfill the requirements of the job. For example, you may be asked if you can have a babysitter in a moment’s notice if an unexpected work emergency pops up. In answering this question, you may be concerned that you will be divulging too much information about your family life and, like many mothers, you may fear that they may not hire you because of the responsibilities that come along with motherhood. Rather than answering the specific question about a babysitter, you may instead wish to say “I am very flexible and am able to travel or work late when the need arises.” This answer addresses the interviewer’s question while preserving your privacy and also keeps the conversation going in a positive direction-one which showcases why you are the best candidate for the job.

As an employer looking to hire a new employee, it’s important that everyone in your organization from the receptionist to the hiring manager who might come in contact with the candidates have a basic understanding of what topics and questions are off limits. You might even consider having a list of approved questions and a list of questions which are prohibited, regardless of the position being filled. These procedures should be a matter of strict company policy and should be reviewed each year to ensure compliance with all discrimination laws.

If you or your company would like a free consultation on these or any issues, please contact me at mmurrah@outsourcegc.com

Employers and Immigration Compliance: What You Need to Know

Posted on August 6, 2013 by in Blog

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire undocumented workers and requires employers to verify each worker’s identity and eligibility by completing the I-9 Form. An employer’s failure to complete the I-9 Form can result in criminal and civil penalties.

The INA also protects individuals from employment discrimination based upon national origin, citizenship or immigration status. The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) enforces the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions. Victims of discrimination may file a complaint with the OSC to seek back pay, reinstatement and other remedies.

With so much at stake and so many potential pitfalls, it is important for all employers to familiarize themselves with the requirements and implement policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

Employers are prohibited from:

  • Discriminating on the basis of citizenship or immigration status, with respect to hiring, firing, recruitment or referral. This rule applies to employers of four or more employees.
  • Discriminating on the basis of national origin, with respect to hiring, firing, recruitment or referral. This rule applies to employers of between three and 15 employees. Employers may not extend different treatment to different individuals based on their birth place, country of origin, native language, ancestry or because they may look or sound “foreign.”
  • Requesting more or different documents to verify a worker’s employment eligibility. An employer may not request different or additional documents for determination of citizenship or national origin than those documents specified on the I-9 Form. Furthermore, an employer is not permitted to reject genuine-looking documents.
  • Retaliating against an individual who files charges with the OSC, cooperates with an investigation or contests an action that may be considered discriminatory or in violation of the INA.

To improve compliance in your employment procedures, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Refrain from using discriminatory language in job postings, such as “green card only” or “U.S. citizen only,” unless it is required by law or by a government contract.
  • In completing the I-9 Form, do not request specific documents over other permitted documents. Each employee is permitted to present any document from the list of acceptable documents stated on the form.
  • Refrain from selectively verifying work eligibility for only certain employees based on their citizenship status or national origin; whatever your policy, make sure it is applied consistently to all employees.
  • Avoid the appearance of discriminatory practices by verifying employment eligibility only after you have made a hiring decision, and give the employee three days to provide the required documentation.
  • Do not immediately terminate an employee if you receive a “no match” letter from the Social Security Administration. While such a letter may mean the individual is not authorized to work in the United States, it is also possible that there is a discrepancy in the record due to a clerical error or legal name change.
  • If you suspect that an employee is not legally eligible to work in this country, notify the employee and request valid employment eligibility documents before terminating or suspending employment.

If you or your company would like a free consultation on these or any issues, please contact me at mmurrah@outsourcegc.com