I Received a Cease and Desist Letter. What Should I Do?

A cease-and-desist letter typically demands that an employee or a business stop doing something. The letter often threatens a legal action if the recipient does not comply.

If you receive a cease and desist letter, take it seriously and do not ignore it. A letter like this usually presents an opportunity to resolve a conflict with the sender before they file a lawsuit.

What Is a Cease and Desist Letter?

A cease and desist letter is typically (1) written by an attorney; (2) describes the sender’s legal claim or claims; and (3) demands that the recipient stop engaging in some conduct. Sometimes, it contains a deadline for compliance. Often, it threatens with a lawsuit if the recipient does not comply by that deadline.

Cease and desist letters may allege that the recipient:

  • Is using somebody’s confidential information
  • Is violating a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement
  • Is interfering with somebody’s contract
  • Is disparaging the sender

In a departing employee situation, where a former employer is attempting to enforce the employee’s non-competition or non-solicitation agreement, the sender may send a copy of the letter to the employee’s new employer, putting them on notice of the restrictions in the employee’s agreement. Often, a cease and desist letter will demand that the new employer take a certain action with respect to the employee.

What Is the Goal of the Cease and Desist Letter?

The main goal of a cease and desist letter is to force someone to stop engaging in certain conduct under the treat of a lawsuit. It is basically “do what we tell you to do, or we will sue you” communication.

The secondary goal of a cease and desist letter is to serve as evidence in court that (1) an employee was told to stop engaging in certain actions, and (2) after the warning, he continued to engage in such actions anyway. Thus, a letter prevents an employee from arguing that they did not know that their conduct was violating the law.

What Should I Do If I Receive a Cease and Desist Letter?

If you are served with a cease and desist letter, contact an employment attorney immediately. Your attorney will review the letter and any documents, will advise you on the best next steps, and will draft a response to the cease an desist letter.

Do I Need to Respond to a Cease and Desist Letter?

Yes, you almost always should respond to a cease-and-desist letter, after obtaining legal advice. You do not want to answer the letter without an attorney’s help for the following reasons:

  1. You may unknowingly make admissions or statements that will undermine your case if the dispute ends up in litigation;
  2. You may unknowingly waive certain defenses;
  3. You may agree to the demands thinking that they are valid, when, in reality, there is no legal basis for such demands;
  4. You may unknowingly signal to the other side that you do not take their demands seriously and /or that you have no funds to fights the demand, which can prompt the sender to become more aggressive.

How Can an Attorney Help Me with a Cease and Desist Letter?

An employment attorney can help you do the following:

  1. Determine whether the claims or allegations in the letter have any legal basis;
  2. Recommend a course of action for you that will minimize the chances of litigation;
  3. Draft a response to the letter pointing out legal defects in the sender’s case, requesting additional information, or assuring compliance with the demands;
  4. Negotiate a resolution prior to the dispute ending up in court;
  5. Advise you on whether filing a lawsuit first is a good option.

Leiza Dolghih is the founder of Dolghih Law Group PLLC.  She is board certified in labor and employment law and has 16+ years of experience in commercial and employment litigation, including trade secrets and non-compete disputes. You can contact her directly at leiza@dlg-legal.com or (214) 531-2403.

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