The Law at Work: Employers are entitled to their employees’ loyalty – to a point
How much loyalty do California employees owe their employer? Under California law, an employee owes “undivided loyalty” to his employer. According to a leading ruling, this duty is breached when the employee takes action against the best interests of the employer. In his The Law at Work column in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Shareholder Dan Eaton outlines three aspects to an employee’s duty of loyalty:
- While employed, an employee may not compete against his employer.
- An employee may not use his or her job to enrich the person from a vendor or other third party.
- An employee may not use the employer’s confidential information for the employee’s own benefit or for the benefit of anyone other than the employee
Employers have brought numerous lawsuits against former employees for violating one or more of these duties, but there are many laws that protect employees such as California’s whistleblower law, the state’s employment discrimination law and federal labor law. However, according to Dan, the prudent employee generally will avoid biting the hand that feeds him. The prudent employer generally will refrain from punishing an employee at the sound of the first bark.
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