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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Who owns contact info, retiring salesman or his company?

Typically employees sign contracts that cover the return

Typically employees sign contracts that cover the return of company property such as computers or phones. In the absence of an agreement, the employee does not have to give his employer content from his phone or his computer. Photo Credit: iStock

DEAR CARRIE: I have been a salesman at the same company for more than 20 years, and I plan to retire soon. I call on clients in person or by email or telephone. I have accumulated most of my clients’ email addresses and cell phone numbers on my smartphone because the company doesn’t provide any electronic equipment. I use my phone to contact clients when I am out of the office, which is about 80 percent of the time. Still, the company has not paid anything toward the phone’s purchase or the monthly fee to maintain it. The same holds true for my home computer, which I use for business. When I retire, what are my legal responsibilities as far as turning over the clients’ email addresses or cell phone numbers? — PORTABLE DATA?

DEAR PORTABLE DATA: First, find out whether you signed an agreement with your employer that covers this situation, said employment attorney Carmelo Grimaldi, a partner at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola.

Employers often protect themselves and their proprietary information by having their employees sign agreements, typically at the time of hire. Those contracts often contain detailed clauses about confidentiality, non-disclosure or the return of company information or property, Grimaldi said.

Such agreements may also include restrictive covenants such as employees’ promise not to solicit the company’s clients for a specific period of time after leaving the company, he said.

“In the absence of such an agreement, the retiring employee does not have to download and furnish to his employer content from his phone or his computer — both of which he maintained at his sole expense,” he said.

Even in the absence of an agreement, employees must be careful not to reveal information that may be deemed proprietary or confidential — that is, information entrusted to them that is not known to the general public, Grimaldi said.

For example, if the employee was provided with a confidential list of unpublished customer contact information, such as cell phones, that he copied and downloaded to his computer, the company may argue that the employee cannot personally use such information or provide it to third parties, Grimaldi said.

“If the retiring employee desires to use or sell such information — or has [signed] an agreement containing any . . . restrictive covenants — he should first consult with an attorney to determine if he is legally prohibited from doing so,” Grimaldi said.

DEAR CARRIE: Are employers required to pay employees when they are called for jury duty? — Of the Jury

DEAR OF THE JURY: What companies have to pay depends on their size.

Employers with more than 10 employees must pay the $40-a-day juror fee or wages. Even if employees’ daily wages are higher than the $40 fee, the larger companies must pay only the jury fee.

At companies with 10 or fewer employees, the state pays the jury fee, if the companies don’t pay it. If the smaller companies pay employees’ wages that are less than the jury fee, then the state pays the difference between the wage and the $40 jury fee.

If service extends beyond 30 days, the court may authorize an additional $6 a day in jury fees.

If you find those prospects depressing, here is some cheerier news: Your company cannot force you to make up time served on a jury. And it cannot force you to use vacation time while serving. But employees who aren’t being paid their full wage can opt to use paid-time off in order to be paid their regular wage.

If jury duty would create a medical or financial hardship, you can ask to be excused, provided you provide proof of your situation.

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