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I am being headhunted by my previous employer.

We had worked together very well and had very close personal relationships until I resigned to join my current company, which is a direct competitor of my previous employer. After tendering my resignation they sent the police after me for allegedly stealing confidential information from the company, requiring me to hire a solicitor (attorney, legal council) to resolve. They additionally dismissed me from employment upon tendering my resignation, and contacted my current employer to explain why they should not hire me due to my alleged theft of intellectual property.

I did not steal any confidential information from my ex-employer, and as it is a big company I did not understand the motivation behind their reaction to my resignation.

Since they are headhunting me without me applying for any jobs there or showing any interest, I am curious about their offer. I have heard that my departure left a big gap, but also think it may just be to get back at my current employer for hiring me away in the first place.

Should I even entertain their request for a meeting to discuss this offer, and if so what precautions should I take given our history?

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    This is not something we can answer for you, I'm afraid; you really need to weigh the risks for yourself - after all, you are more familiar with the situation than anyone here is. And this is a rather unique situation - do you think you could rephrase the question so it is more generally useful to a wider set of people? You are also asking for opinions which leads to everyone giving their own - do you think you could ask something that will not lead to speculative and opinionated answers? – Oded Sep 24 '13 at 20:17
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    If you decide to take the meeting, bring a lawyer. – mkennedy Sep 24 '13 at 22:10
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    sent they police after me claiming that i had taken intellectual information, I had to engage solicitors and they too --- Seriously? This is even a question for you? I'd say they burned this particular bridge already. – Joel Etherton Sep 25 '13 at 12:50
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    Demand TONS of money up front. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Sep 26 '13 at 9:09
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    @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen: How very American of you :) – Joel Etherton Sep 26 '13 at 17:09
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I assume this is some sort of joke? No, it's obviously not a risk worth taking. I'll assume that you didn't commit the offence that they alleged, in which case they clearly don't care much about your quality of life. Returning to them would not only tell them that you're happy to be abused by them, but that you're happy to have them pull this kind of stunt again in the future when you get a different job.

If you're unhappy enough with your current job that you'd even consider this, then please consider searching for other work elsewhere, instead of going back to the insidious former employer you've described.

  • Many thanks for your comments and views, I thought saying it as it is may open some debate, to help me look at pros and cons – Fiona Sep 24 '13 at 20:25
  • Is there any reason that you're actually considering returning to your former employer? The way that you've stated the original question makes it clear that it'd be a bad decision, and that they were an abusive employer. Is there some change in circumstance that's making you consider returning to them? – Ben H Sep 24 '13 at 20:30
  • I am just curious with what they want to offer me ? as i had heard in the Grapevine that the where struggling and i had left a void. It may be that they want to get my current employers back as tit for tat for taking me in the first instance – Fiona Sep 24 '13 at 20:38
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    I don't understand what good could come from returning to a former employer which took legal action against you (whether that action was founded or not). Or even sitting down to find out what they have to offer. Do not be a pawn in whatever game the old employer is trying to play against your current employer. – alroc Sep 24 '13 at 20:52
  • That is great that you have shared your opinion of what the OP should do. But you have not explained why. While it certianly seems obvious to you and many others, the OP is not seeing it so clearly. Explaining why this is a bad idea is much more helpful than just telling someone what to do. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 25 '13 at 13:47
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You would be insane to consider this.

No wait, let me back that up. There is one circumstance on which you might consider this - if there has been a complete change of management, and all the people who fired you and tried to get you prosecuted have left the company, and new management sees you in an entirely different light. Don't even visit without getting from them a statement that they believe you to be entirely innocent of all accusations. Even then, working with people who once thought you were a thief is going to be the definition of a strained relationship.

Without wishing to be melodramatic, it's not outside the bounds of possibility that this is a trick. They leave you in a room with some classified documents and then claim you stole them while visiting.

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If you are seriously considering it send a lawyer to the meeting, but you don't enter their workspace. Or better yet have the meeting at your lawyers office.

If they did make changes to the company by firing everybody involved in the earlier incident then you could request certain provisions:

  • Monetary damages to cover the actual expenses you had, plus emotional stress.
  • A signing bonus
  • Increase in pay
  • Increase in title
  • Other perks: parking space, bigger office, more vacation...

going back to the same position, for the same pay, after spending your time and money defending yourself doesn't make any sense.

Expect they might reject all or part of your requests. Also get all the money in advance. Don't let them promise to pay you in 30 days. Also the documents you sign after the lawyer reviews them, should not require you to reimburse them if you don't work there for a minimum period.

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What this sounds like is you had been in a fairly important role and a competitor poached you and the original employer was sure the new employer was after trade secrets or IP. Really this sounds more like a fight between the two companies - you are a pawn in the middle.

Problem is that the uncivil response of the original employer tends to poison the atmosphere. Someone wasn't thinking of long term consequences when they called the cops.

Evidently you're holding all the cards - both employers need your skill and knowledge and neither can compete without it. The original employer only figured out what you were worth after you were out the door. If the one you're working with now is viable and treating you with respect, sit tight. You would really have to figure out whether the old employer is trying to set you up for another nasty, or whether their only interest is putting you back to work. If the former employer is having problems keeping customers the situation may be too far gone to recover.

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