Employment Law/Employer Non Compete (Now a contractor)
I am in FL and have an issue where "I signed" and noncompete agreement for an employer for who I resigned 2 months ago. Since then I left that company and started my own service firm. Providing a simplified approach equivalent to the services as my former employer.
Since then, some of their customers have found out and contacted me to service them. They continually tell me how they were with my former employer because of how I handled their issues and that now they are interested in working with my company.
Since I am start-up company, I really cannot afford to be stuck in a legal battle. However, these clients will start looking at other services providers if i do not take them its a missed opportunity. Basically, they are unhappy (even more now that I am not there) and are shopping around.
So where does that leave me? Can I take them as clients under my company? Bear in mind that the noncompete was signed under my name and not my new company. Not sure if this helps.
Any guidance you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
ANSWER: Michael - If you signed a noncompete that said you would not work in the industry of your former employer, with certain geographic and time restrictions, then you leave yourself open to a lawsuit by your former employer. In most states, the courts look at the specifics of the agreement to determine whether they are reasonable. For example, you could not be barred from working in the industry forever -- the usual time limits run about one to three years. I do not know what the terms of your agreement are, so I cannot give you a definite answer whether they would be upheld or not, nor can I guarantee you that your employer would not sue you even if the terms were unreasonable. Sometimes the suits are filed to scare competition away, which a hefty legal bill usually will accomplish. It's a risk you have to decide whether or not to take.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thank you for your answer. The agreement has a strike-through where it sates that I cannot go work for a competitor or even work independently. My concern is in accepting their clients who are clearly unhappy with my former employer's service.
Michael - Regardless of which clients you accept, you will still be in violation of the noncompete agreement. The fact that they want to leave their current provider is irrelevant in regard to your contractual agreement with the former employer not to compete with it.