Leave it be, says our panel of experts, particularly when the stakes are so low. You have a lot more to lose than gain by taking the firm to court. And the biggest loss will be your reputation.
"Reputations are everything in nearly every aspect of financial services. So is networking," says Rod Williams, a job market consultant with New York-based Lee Hecht Harrison. "Unless there is either an extremely significant amount of money in dispute or a need to save face, then this may be the time to let discretion be the better part of valor and save the fight for another day."
Even if you did prevail legally, you lose, because you'll be branded as someone who will take their employer to court, Williams said. You'll have won the battle but lost the war, he said.
"It's not the firm who will be out looking for a new job while attempting to deal with the label of one who takes employers or former employers to court," Williams said. "Put pride aside."
Deborah Rivera, founder of New York-based Succession Group agrees, but more forcefully. In a word, cease and desist, before you derail your career, she says.
"The world financial markets are minuscule," Rivera said. "I, or any well-connected financial services professional, have the ability to call around the market right now and get your company's version of events, which may be untrue, but it will "appear" to have more credibility than your version."
Why? Unfair as it is, you're an individual, and the people likely to care about this matter are companies, just like the entity you're fighting. Prospective employers are much more likely to accept your company's version of the events because they may have had a similar situation of their own with former employees. And companies don't want to hire people who are "problematic," Rivera said.
In fact your old employer has a vested interest in making you look wrong. Because if you look right, they look wrong, and they can't allow that to happen, Rivera said.
"You made some big mistakes here. You used company email to divulge a confidential company matter or complain to a colleague," Rivera said.
You will always have to sign contracts, whether it's a non-compete clause or a confidentiality clause. It's standard practice in the industry. And if you don't want to sign, the employer will find someone else who will. Employers aren't just looking for employees who are capable and productive; they want people who are well balanced and will be loyal to the firm.
"You need to realize that this matter could permanently derail your career and that you need to work on salvaging whatever you can," Rivera said. "Any public retaliation will hurt you more than it will hurt this firm. And I speak as a veteran who over the years has seen this scenario hundreds of times with very little success on the individual's side."
It doesn't matter whether the employee was right or wrong, Rivera said.