Many companies have non-disclosure agreements. Most use them correctly in that the employee is required to sign a contract before knowing anything worth disclosing.
Simply stated, it is part of the paperwork of taking on a new job. However, some companies, especially smaller companies, will wait until an employee is being dismissed and will make signing the non-disclosure agreement a condition for getting a severance package.
Waiting until an employee is being dismissed and making the non-disclosure document a part of a severance package can be a risky approach.. The employee may not think the severance package is worthwhile. Furthermore, the employee has to be given time to discuss the non-disclosure agreement with his lawyer. During that time, the document is not signed, and there is no way of preventing the employee from discussing it with other people. The employee may not choose to sign it, and the worst thing that can happen is that he is fired. No legal action could be taken until some information is disclosed, and that may not hold up in court.
Therefore, the non-disclosure agreement should be signed before the employee is hired. It should be a condition of employment. The candidate is given the non-disclosure document, which spells out what the company considers to be confidential and states that it is the intention of the company to hire offer the person a position as soon as he signs the agreement. The document states that the agreement is not intended to violate any provisions of the constitution, federal civil rights act or any federal or state whistle blower law. The employee is still expected to be discrete, but if he sees a violation, he, at least in theory, can report it to the proper authorities without fear of reprisal.
If he potential employee decides he does not like the agreement or does not think the employment offer is adequate, he can walk away, and the signed non-disclosure agreement is worthless, because the candidate did not take the job and accordingly knows nothing to disclose about the company.
A non-disclosure agreement is not a negotiated agreement. The agreement has to be the same for all employees. The company can decide how much detail they want to list on the document. The accompanying template would fall into the moderate stage, which would work for most companies. Some larger companies, especially those with government contracts, might require even more material.
The important thing is to get the agreement signed before a person can learn anything that should not be disclosed. Make certain he has a copy with time to discuss with a lawyer and spouse. Finally, a copy should be included in the personnel file and not left on the boss’s desk.