Companies do not take kindly to former employees poaching current employees and stealing trade secrets, it’s the stuff lawsuits are made of. That’s exactly what Tesla is doing now, suing a former Tesla and Google employee for poaching its people and stealing secrets. Sterling Anderson is the former program manager for Tesla’s Autopilot team and Chris Urmson is a former Google self-driving car technical lead. The two are being sued for poaching Tesla’s employees to their new project dubbed, Aurora Innovation. The lawsuit alleges that Anderson actively attempted to recruit at least a dozen Tesla engineers to Aurora Innovation and which violated his non-solicitation agreement. Anderson also stole Tesla data which he later destroyed to try and mask his activities.
In the complaint, Tesla says it “does not file this action lightly” and says that the company is “typically supportive” of the personal ambitions of its employees, but “cannot sit idly by” when an employee “abuses his position of trust and orchestrates a scheme to deliberately and repeatedly violate his non-solicit agreement, hide evidence, and take the company’s confidential and proprietary information for use in a competing venture.”
Aurora Innovation did issue a statement about the lawsuit:
Tesla’s meritless lawsuit reveals both a startling paranoia and an unhealthy fear of competition. This abuse of the legal system is a malicious attempt to stifle a competitor and destroy personal reputations. Aurora looks forward to disproving these false allegations in court and to building a successful self-driving business.
Of the dozen Tesla employees that Aurora approached about leaving Tesla and joining them, two of them decided to take the leap to Aurora. According to the lawsuit, Anderson did not inform Tesla of his plans when he tendered his resignation. Anderson agreed to stay on with Tesla for a bit longer to help finish one of the Autopilot upgrades the company had been working on.
On January 3rd, the complaint says, three engineers from the Autopilot group told Tesla that they would be joining Aurora (one later changed his mind), and Anderson allegedly began covering his tracks, erasing his phone and some files (including some Aurora-related documents) from his company-issued laptop. The complaint alleges that Anderson did not hand over hard drives he used to back up his company laptop when his employment with the company ended on January 4th.
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