We get that question all the time. Can your old employer prevent you from getting a job? If they do, what are your rights?

Let us start to answer that question at the beginning.

1. Do you have an employment contract?
2. Does your employment contract state you will not compete?

If the answer to number 2 was yes, then your old employer can send a letter to your new employer, stating that you are in breach of your agreement and if they continue to employ you, company 2 will be sued.

If you agreed in writing not to compete, then your old employer can prevent you from competing by sending nasty grams to your new place of work. They have the right to do that because you gave it to them in a binding contract.

Now, what if you do not have an employment agreement. Can your old company send the same kind of threatening letter? Can they tell potential employers not to hire you? Sure, if your plan is to take their trade secret information, client lists, and or try to steal business from company #1. Under Virginia law, you do not have a right to use secret information for the benefit of another – and that can also lead to a lawsuit or you being prevented from working in certain fields.

So what if you (1) have no agreement; (2) are not using secret information; (3) are not trying to poach clients, can they prevent you from getting a job?

Under Virginia law, they are not allowed to try to ruin your career. If someone tries to do that, it is actually a criminal offense. Can they tell future employers you were a bad employee? Yes, if it was true.

I know it’s a tough market out there. Good luck.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at