Question: I recently resigned from a job as a licensed engineer with a private consulting firm in Michigan to accept a job with a government agency in Louisiana. It’s been brought to my attention that my former employer is still using my resume, credentials, and name on proposals to attract work. They are concerned that if particular clients find out I’m no longer employed there (because of my additional credentials) the company could lose some very large contracts.
Can I demand compensation for the use of my name and credentials?
If not, how do I get them to stop using my name?
Norma, Baton Rouge, LA
(All names are changed)
Answer: Two really great questions. Let me take them one by one:
A. Yes, you can demand compensation for the use of your name and credentials. However, I’m concerned that if you do, you might just find yourself with a real problem:
1. First, if you say to someone words to the effect “Give me money or I will tell someone you are doing something wrong,” you are committing the crime of extortion. So, make sure if you contact them, you don’t say it that way.
2. Second, what your former employer is doing is a kind of fraud – they are, in effect, telling clients and prospective clients that you and your abilities are still there. I believe your taking money and allowing them to do that makes you a participant in that fraud.
3. Third, if a building falls down, a computer crashes or some other bad event takes place, I think you could find yourself sued for negligence or engineering malpractice.
4. Fourth, I’m concerned that your present government job may prohibit your working elsewhere at the same time and, if they find out, they might fire you.
For these reasons, and others like them, I surely discourage you from taking money to let your former employer keep using your name and credentials in proposals, on their website or in any other way.
B. To stop them from doing so, I’d suggest a friendly-yet-firm letter to them requesting that they do two things: (a) stop doing what they are doing, and (b) provide you with written assurance that they have stopped and won’t do so in the future. I suggest you send it by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, or by Federal Express or UPS Overnite.
I don’t think you need to “burn bridges” [excuse the engineering reference], so I would not in any way threaten them. However, if they do not stop and assure you they are stopping, then send them a second letter, making the same two requests, and this time tell them that you have no choice but to contact their clients if they do not. I think that should do the trick.
We offer a model letter to assist you in your request that your employer cease and desist using your name and information. To obtain a copy, simply [click here].
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Best, Al Sklover