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Protect Yourself as an Employee, Here’s Why

Source | LinkedIn : By Douglas Starnes

I hope this isn’t a rant. There has been a post from Reddit circulating on Twitter recently. It’s about a junior dev, first day on the job who accidentally deleted a production database while following instructions given to him by the dev team. And now the company was unable to restore the backups and the employee has been fired with the reminder that he might hear from their legal department.

I have many thoughts on this. Replies to this post have included the advice “if you have a copy of the instructions, keep them in a very safe place.” This may seem like good advice; however, those instructions are company property and most likely are considered confidential as they contained steps to access a production database. (Granted if the database could not be restored those steps would be useless but still, it’s confidential company property.) I’m sure that the employee signed some kind of agreement which required the return of all such material should employment end for whatever reason. And this creates a paradox to the employer’s advantage. The employee cannot, legally, keep a copy of the evidence that exculpates him, at least not without the company’s permission. And in this situation, it’s very unlikely that the permission would be given. Then, since this company has shifty business practices it’s possible they could destroy those instructions and try to argue that they never existed. If the employee did keep the instructions, the company might make the argument that by violating the confidentiality agreement he is untrustworthy and has malicious intent.

This is why I am VERY picky about who I work for and what I will place my signature on and under what circumstances. Attorneys draft legal agreements with one entity’s interests in mind, the client. Everyone else is hung out to dry. So, these agreements include language which is only of benefit to the company, and not the employees. Many times, I have been met with pushback regarding legal agreements. When I question the language, or ask for a change, I get an aggressive if not hostile response. What I don’t do, is assume that everyone has good intentions and just sign the documents in good faith. My experience tells me that everyone is interested in protecting themselves. And if my professional reputation becomes a casualty in pursuit of that goal, so be it.

To make matters worse, the person who wrote the Reddit article had moved across the country to take this position. Again, this is why I always insist on an initial remote period before discussing relocation in addition to an upfront written assurance that any and all relocation costs will be paid for directly. In other words, I don’t pay for them and wait to be reimbursed. And these requests are also always rebuffed.

And I am also reluctant to authorize background investigations. Of course, the automatic reply to this is “What do you have that you don’t want us to see?” And my reply is “Nothing. And you should take my word for it. Otherwise you don’t trust me and why would I want to work for someone who doesn’t trust me?” I have offered to allow such investigations on the simple condition that I, and no one else gets to see the results first so I can validate the accuracy. Why? Just take a look at the Reddit article. This company had lax security measures that inadvertently permitted a day one employee unlimited access to production data. In turn, it resulted in a security breach. What if the company providing the background investigations has similar policies? It could result in the accidental misuse of my personal information. And I doubt I would be allowed to see the results of any security audit. A savvy person would be able to exploit security vulnerabilities, possibly undetected over a long period.

Read On….

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