Clinton Township, MI asked in Employment Law, Business Law, Intellectual Property and Internet Law for Michigan

Q: ex-employer shared files with me on my personal file sharing/ email account 15 months after I was fired. do I hv 2 gv b?

I was working for a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor in mi. I had a 1 year non compete agreement. I was fired 8-17-2017 and my non compete ended 8-17-2018. Two months after the non compete ended, I noticed that the owner of the company was sharing files with me via onedrive (a file sharing app) this information was being shared with me on my personal private onedrive connected to my personal private email. These files included a customer list, a customer past due list, a product and pricing profile and some very general sales data with absolutely no details.

No personal identifying information, contact information, credit card information, ss information or anything like that.

Could I be at fault here? or held liable in anyway or get in any trouble for downloading and viewing a file that was shared with me directly from the owner of the file who is also the owner of the business?

The day after I downloaded the information, I got a threatening call from the owner.

1 Lawyer Answer
Trent Harris
Trent Harris
  • Jackson, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Although your noncompete has ended, it is likely that any confidentiality agreement that you had with the company, whether in writing or in a employee manual, still applies after termination of your employment. The information that you mentioned is recognized by Michigan law as trade secrets, and the employer would probably have a good case in court if they tried to force you to return the information. The disclosure sounds like it was inadvertent, and a judge probably would not say that the company has waived its rights by that mistake.

You probably aren’t in any legal hot water for simply viewing the file, but if you copy, print, use, or further disclose it for your own or another employer’s purposes that could create legal liability for you. My advice is to return the information to the ex-employer. It was theor mistake but probably not one that caused them to lose their rights to control the use of the information.

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