Do I continue with employer or just quit when asked to provide client intellectual property?

My client gave my employer an unfavorable review of my work, now I am being asked to share the documentation from my client as I am currently ending my project as a support person. I was given direct instructions by the client mgr that I was not to share any intellectual property that the client gave me access to with my internal agency team members. I know that I will be told that I am not a team player if I do not share the information with un-approved team members.

I believe I will have to resign as this would conflict with the directive I received from the client. I have been pressured in the past by my team members that I was not cooperating when I refused to share a sanitized version of the client documentation.

What would you do?

mrreliable's picture

You used the term, "My client" a couple of times. I think the meaning of that phrase is central to this issue.

A more accurate term in this context might be "My company's client."

I'm in a professional field where I worked for a company and took appointments with clients. I also referred to them as "My clients." But that wasn't really true. I worked as an employee, directed and controlled by my employer. The contract for services was between the client and the company. Although I did have requirements for confidentiality based on law, I did not have authority to set company policy, and the confidentiality requirements existed regardless of anything a client did or didn't say to me.

You have a dilemma. However, your professional loyalties lie with your employer. If your employer wants you to provide them with information you obtained as a company employee, and you refuse to do that, yes, you will be looked upon as "not a team player."

You mentioned "un-approved team members." Unapproved by whom? Do you have the authority to decide what information will and won't be forthcoming to other employees? It appears you've had similiar situations before.

It really boils down to who determines what confidential information is and how to handle that confidential information. If you're not following a specific law or rule of professional conduct, and you're making all these determinations yourself, it's no mystery that you're getting push back from others in your company. Even in industries with very strict disclosure and use rules, there are exceptions for releasing information to other people in the company for purposes of helping complete the work for the client.

Again, if you're a lawyer or a doctor, or other profession where everyone is required to adhere to statutory confidentiality requirements, it's a different story. Then you'd be able to say, "Under law I'm not at liberty to disclose that information." Otherwise, you're creating a company policy and a procedure for dealing with client information, which will cause problems if you don't have the authority to set policy.

pushbuttonmax's picture

Thanks for the response, you are correct I left out a lot of info.

First I work for an agency "the company" who has a contract with a client who I am contracted out to support full-time.  I have been given access by the client to client internal systems and resources like specific documentation.

When I mention about the "un-approved team members" this is in regards to my peers within the company that I work for who do not have authorized access by the client like I do.

And finally, in regards to the past circumstances the client made it clear that I was the only one who could have access to any client resources and systems.  The client specified that any intellectual property like documentation that was paid for by the client that my company did not provide or take part in belonged to the client only and was not to be shared to anyone else but myself.  It was my understanding that anything belonging to the client like systems and documentation was for my eyes only. 

You are correct that I should not set company policy as I am not authorized to make any decisions.  My company is frustated that I am not sharing information and I am bound by the assumption that I am not allowed to share any client info to my peers because of the clients specific direction on what I am authorized for.



mike_bruns_99's picture
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If I'm reading you correctly:

  1. You work for a contracting firm (Temp-staffing corporation) 
  2. You have been placed at a client (Megacorp).
  3. Megacorp has intellectual property that they use to run their business.  Either licensed (a corporate license for manager-tools for example), or internally developed intellectual property (trade secrets) that they use to compete effectively in the marketplace.
  4. Your employer at temp-staffing corporation is asking you to copy the information from Megacorp after Megacorp specifically instructed you not to.   

Your instincts are right to refuse this request. Ethically and legally, the intellectual property is not yours to give.  Megacorp can absolutely sue you if you steal their property.  And I use the word steal very deliberately.

I'd recommend you start looking for a better job now, with a company that has better morals and ethics.