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DTSA: Employers Must Notify Workers of New Whistleblower Protection

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on May 18, 2016 3:57 PM

Do you have trade secrets? What about employees or contractors? If so, you need to know that a new law is in place, the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), which requires employers to notify workers of limited immunity for disclosure of a trade secret in the context of whistleblowing.

The DTSA provides limited immunity from liability for confidential disclosure of a trade secret to the government or in a court filing, reports patent law blog Patently-O. The immunity for whistleblowers applies in state and federal and criminal and civil cases.

Required Notice

The law went into effect on May 12, 2016, so it's important to address the notice requirement promptly, although reportedly consequences for failing to provide it are minimal. Still if you have trade secrets, you must comply. According to Patently-O, "the statute does not appear to have any small-business exception to the notice requirement."

The DTSA requires employers to let full-time and contract workers, as well as consultants, know about the immunity provision. Basically, any individual who has access to trade secrets and works with your company should know that they can't get in trouble for disclosure in the context of whistleblowing. The notice requirement applies "in any contract or agreement ... that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information."

Update Policy Docs

Before you get all bunched up about the extra stuff you have to do, stay cool. What you should do is update your policy documents and notify existing workers of the update. You do not need to change all your contract paperwork or include the notice on every new deal if your policy documents are refreshed and everyone who needs to know is made aware of the update's existence.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are concerned about the DTSA or any other compliance issues, speak to a lawyer. Counsel can help you to draft policy documents that comply with the requirements, or provide general guidance on various aspects of business operations. Get help.

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