Someone asked google this the other day, and this fine person ended up on our website.
While I hope they found the correct answer, I believe it is a question worth addressing again, and head on.
CAN YOU BE SUED WITHOUT A NON-COMPETE?
I will assume the googler *(person who typed that question into google) wondered if they could be sued in the employment context, absent a written agreement.
And if my assumption is correct, the answer is YES – you can be sued for many different acts even if you don’t have a written employment agreement or non-compete provision.
1. Breach of Loyalty – Essentially, this occurs when an employee takes business away from their employer, or tries to do so while still employed.
Examples – starting your own competing business.
Perfect example – car salesman that says to customer – “Hey, you don’t like what we have on our lot, here is my cell phone number, I run a used car lot on the side.”
2. Trade Secret violation – Virginia law (it is even in the code book) says you cannot take or use another’s secret, confidential or proprietary information and use it for your own benefit for the benefit of another.
Example – customer lists.
Perfect example – carpet salesman takes his old company’s customer list, sends post cards to everyone advertising his new company and a 50% off sale!
3. Conversion – conversion is when you take something that is not yours.
Perfect example – (might also be trade secret) if you take the Cocacola formula and start making a new product called Delish brown cola… if you used their property and took it, that would be conversion.
The list could really go on and on. We have written more about ways you can get sued without a non-compete, here on our website.
The basic truth is this… YES, you could sued even if you did nothing wrong.. but if employer is mad, angry or hurt that you left, they may look for things you did to file suit… and if you really did any of these things, start saving money now, the legal bills are on their way!