“The Factory Chief Laughed In My Face”: Employee Takes Important System They Created With Them When They’re Fired
Factory worker and Reddit user Wintertodt really liked their job. So much so that they even produced a program to optimize the machinery in their free time. Everything was going great. But after their boss was replaced, the new chief decided to reorganize the place and as a result, Wintertodt got laid off.
Leaving the company, they asked the higher-ups to compensate them for the program that they had developed since it turned out to be an essential part of the business. However, the request was denied and Wintertodt was shown to the door instead.
Later, the managers realized that the program wasn’t fully automatic and, in fact, required someone to look after it. Since Wintertodt hadn’t trained anyone, they were the only one who could do it. Still, the worker and their former employer couldn’t come to an agreement on how to proceed.
Image source: AmnajKhetsamtip (not the actual photo)
Image source: stokkete (not the actual photo)
Image source: Wintertodt
This story is reminiscent of a similar one we published back in November about an employee quitting taking the company’s training documents with them.
Back then, we explained that the Copyright Act automatically assigns authorship to employers rather than employee creators or inventors in two specific situations.
The first is where an employee develops the work within the scope of their employment, while the second occurs when the employer specifically orders or commissions the work from the employee.
But in the words of Michele Martell, an intellectual property attorney who has counseled businesses from The Muppets to the WWE and Crayola, the situation becomes murkier when an employee creates intellectual property that’s unrelated to their job.
“If an accountant for the company, rather than an engineer, came up with [an] engineering advancement, for example, there would be an argument that the work isn’t within the scope of their employment,” Martell noted.
So given the fact that Wintertodt created the program after hours and without being tasked with it, a case could be made that it actually belongs to them.