We are often asked, ” I didn’t sign a non-compete agreement with my company so can I start soliciting my employer’s customers and clients BEFORE I leave my job to start a competing business?”
We try to explain that, regardless of whether you have signed a non-compete agreement with your employer, you owe a duty a fidelity and loyalty to your employer.
A recent case tried in the Fairfax Courts reinforces this point. In the case, Overlook Systems Technologies, Inc. v. Lortie, et al., the employer sued two of its former employees for soliciting customers and competing against the company’s interest prior to the employees departure from the company. The employees defended their actions by arguing: (1) they had not signed a non-compete agreement, and (2) they were entitled to “prepare to compete” and their activities were related to future planning for competition.
The judge and jury did not buy the employees’ arguments and awarded the employer damages of $289,000.
My Take: Employees have more legal obligations to their employers than they often realize and appreciate….and these mistakes can be costly!