If you are on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter, you might need assistance in how to respond. This article covers some common approaches that our law firm takes when assisting our clients with a cease and desist letter response. This is not to be construed as legal advice but provides general information applicable to the situation. If you need legal assistance with responding to a cease-and-desist letter, contact Lipp Law today.
Check the Deadline
Most cease and desist letters provide a response deadline, typically in about 1 week. If the letter asks for a response in two weeks, then it’s likely that the sender isn’t suffering extreme harm due to the recipient’s actions. If the letter asks for 24-48 hours to respond, the sender may be highly emotional, unreasonable, or has no choice but to move quickly because it needs immediate relief.
Ensure You Have a Signed Copy of the Contract at Issue
Many times, cease and desist letters are sent because an employee is subject to a non-compete agreement, and they left their former place of employment and are now at a new company. So, it’s important to always have a current signed copy of the non-compete agreement at issue when a cease-and-desist letter is received. That way, you can refer to the non-compete agreement’s obligations to verify what is alleged in the cease and desist letter.
Our firm has seen situations where a cease and desist letter claims that an employee signed a non-compete or other restrictive covenant agreement, but there was no signed agreement in place. We’ve even been in a situation where the other side sent us a template word document with no signatures to claim that our client was under some sort of a restriction. As you can imagine, our firm was able to efficiently resolve that matter in our client’s favor.
By knowing the exact terms of what the employee signed, you can review the cease and desist letter to examine whether it has valid legal support. Many times, the company sending the cease and desist letter will fail to attach the non-compete or contract that was signed, which can be a red flag. Proper cease and desist letters should include a copy of the signed non-compete or applicable contract to save everyone time and expense. When you know what you signed, you can evaluate how to respond to the letter in a way that prevents you from signing up for broader obligations that what you already are (or are not) subject to.
Examine the “Wrongful Acts” Alleged in the Letter
Many cease and desist letters are based on faulty evidence or lack specifics on what wrongful acts the recipient is accused of. Closely examine the wrongful acts alleged in the letter – if there even are any. Lawyers that don’t have solid evidence yet at their disposal sometimes use a phrase: “upon information and belief” – if your letter includes this phrase, the drafter may be acting solely on what their client told them, and not objective evidence. By examining the letter’s factual allegations, you can discern how much the other side knows (or does not know).
Keep a Cool Head
Nothing intensifies a dispute quicker than emotional bickering. It’s critical to have a cool head in responding to any legal accusations. The best tone to take in any response is a calm, rational, factual approach. While feelings happen and are critical to validate when speaking between attorney and client, any communication from the letter recipient to the sender should be professional.
In sum, a cease and desist letter response should involve careful review of any signed contracts governing the parties’ obligations, examination of the letter’s facts, if any, and a calm, professional response. When an employee leaves a company, it can cause hurt feelings, monetary harm, and drama. It’s best to take a step back and respond in a collected, high-level way to avoid a lawsuit, unnecessary legal fees, and wasted time.
If you need assistance with a cease and desist letter response, or any other employment law matter, contact Lipp Law today.
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