Occasionally Virginia employees are sued by their ex-employers. You know this. Often times the lawsuit alleges breach of contract, Trade Secret Act etc. More often we are now seeing the addition of a Business Conspiracy claim under Virginia Code § 18.2-499(A) which provides that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for two or more persons to: “combine, associate, agree, mutually undertake, or concert together for the purpose of (i) willfully and maliciously compelling another to do or perform any act against his will, or preventing or hindering another from doing or performing any lawful act. . . .”
To recover in an action under this statute: a plaintiff must prove a combination of two or more persons “for the purpose of willfully and maliciously injuring another in his reputation, trade, business, or profession . . . and resulting damage to the plaintiff.”
In addition to the Statute, Virginia law allows for conspiracy cause of action “against those who conspire to induce the breach of a contract, even when one of the alleged conspirators is a party to the contract.” Worrie v. Boze, 198 Va. 533, 540-41, 95 S.E.2d 192, 198-99 (1956).
So what does all this fluffy language mean to you, the employee. In Gallop v. Sharp, 179 the Supreme Court of Virginia held:
The gist of the civil action of conspiracy is the damage caused by the acts committed in pursuance of the formed conspiracy and not the mere combination of two or more persons to accomplish an unlawful purpose or use unlawful means. In other words, the basis of the action is the wrong which is done under the conspiracy and which results in damage to the plaintiff. No cause of action exists without the resulting injury, and the damage produced must arise as the effective result of the conspiracy.
Still doesn’t help me understand.
Basically, here is the deal.
As employees – you cannot come together with another person, with the intent of hurting the business, or reputation of a 3rd party. If you do, and you hurt their business or reputation, you will be held accountable.
a. send emails about how unethical they are
b. Tell others their business is folding
c. Take out ads in the paper about how you were mistreated
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Use your brain. While this conspiracy claim may still end up in a lawsuit against you – I have never personally seen a company prove it.
It’s usually an add on – lawyers throw it in for fun. Don’t give them any encouragement however by running your mouth against the old boss… makes you look like a jerk and gives their conspiracy claim some leverage.