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Should My Daughter Seek Legal Counsel?
Old 10-06-2015, 04:34 PM   #1
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Should My Daughter Seek Legal Counsel?

In mid-August DD accepted a position with a different company. It is a promotion that offers her increase in pay, benefits and continued growth in skills and pay.
She worked for her former employer (family owned/operated) for nine years. The past five years she has managed their office in Oregon. This included responsibility for purchase/receiving, warehouse, sales and customer service. Due to minimal benefits, low pay and poor management, the company experiences a lot of turnover and she ended up with the responsibility for training new employees and at times has had to manage CA territory during employee turnover. She was very loyal to the company even after having stagnant wages over the past few years. At times she worked without pay to help cover other sales territories during employee turnover. Over the past few years she was becoming increasingly concerned about some borderline ethical practices at the company which finally motivated her to look outside the company for other opportunities. Some of the customers told her that the only reason they still purchased from this company was because they could trust her. The final straw was when they cancelled her health insurance without giving her time to get approved for a private plan. So, she gave notice and moved on and is very happy at the new company.
Last week she received an email from her former boss (CEO/owner) asking if she had accepted employment with a competitor reminding her that she had signed an Employee Confidentiality and Non-Compete Agreement in 2006. She chose not to respond to the email as she did not want to have any contact with him or the company going forward.
Today she received an email from the company's attorney with a letter attached asking her to review and respond. They are accusing her of:

1. Using their customer list and/or customer information.

2. That she accepted employment with a competitor (she was restricted for two years from last day of employment) and that she is soliciting customers to divert current and future work for herself and her new employer.

They claim these actions have placed her at significant liability. They are claiming she is now liable for 1/3 of her past three years including attorney fees and costs incurred in pursuing the claim against her.

They state she has three options and must respond by 10/9.

1. Cease to using the client's customer information, supplier list, vendor list and any other confidential information as well as cease working for any company that is in competition with her former employer.

2. She or her new employer can make their client a monetary settlement offer to buy out her Agreement obligations.

3. Do nothing and be sued in King County, WA which is the location for resolving disputes between her and former employer.

In the letter, they recommend option #1 as her best route and if she accepts option #1 by 10/9, their client (her former employer) will not pursue any of its claims against her (as long as she does not breach the contract again).

She is NOT working for a competitor. Her former employer "provides products and services to the electronics industry. These products and services are used by companies that manufacture and assemble printed circuit boards" (this is pulled from the description of their company on their web site).

Her current employer is Oregon based ESOP company that specializes in Electronic Design & Manufacturing Services (EDMS). They design and manufacture circuit boards.

My DD did not take any customer lists for proprietary information from her former employer. The claims are slimy and erroneous. However, I'm concerned that if she doesn't respond they will pursue the claim against her since they have nothing to lose (they state she is responsible for attorney fees).

I'm fighting the "mother bear" urge and trying not to get emotional and/or into fight mode. This is truly not fair to her as she truly is a loyal and ethical person.

Any suggestions or advice?

Thanks, Dog
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:46 PM   #2
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Does her new company have an attorney?
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Old 10-06-2015, 04:59 PM   #3
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Since the title of this thread is "should my daughter seek legal counsel"? I think the obvious answer is Yes.

If she does nothing she will most likely get sued and if he doesn't respond to that lawsuit, she will have some sort of default judgement against her whether she is at fault or not. She needs an attorney.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:13 PM   #4
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These are complex areas of law. So, yes, I would suggest that she consult with an attorney in her area who is experienced with these types of disputes.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:20 PM   #5
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Clearly she needs to get an attorney. Only question is whether she can get her new employer to pay for one or if she needs to do it herself.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:23 PM   #6
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I would bring that communication to my boss's attention right away and then decide about talking to a lawyer on my own. Tell her it's a compliment that former company sees her as a threat.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:25 PM   #7
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These are complex areas of law. So, yes, I would suggest that she consult with an attorney in her area who is experienced with these types of disputes.
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There are times when you need an expert lawyer at your back, and this is definitely one of them. (I speak from experience). The risks to her career and reputation are too great to try to negotiate a complex minefield. IANAL, but it seems to me that she should hire independent counsel. The new employer's priority will be to make this situation go away and and their legal counsel will not necessarily prioritize loyalty to a new employee.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:25 PM   #8
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Yes to getting legal advice. Very fact intensive and will vary wildly depending upon which state's law governs.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:43 PM   #9
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Clearly she needs to get an attorney. Only question is whether she can get her new employer to pay for one or if she needs to do it herself.
I think her old company pursuing the new company, so the new company is kinda on the hook to provide and pay for an attorney in my opinion.

And Yes, I'd consult an attorney and possibly pay few bucks to draft a response to the old company.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:49 PM   #10
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This is a time where even if my current employer was willing to provide legal support, I would engage an attorney on my own. Personally, I don't think she has much to worry about, but even defending oneself when perfectly innocent can be costly. Best of luck to her.

And BTW, the best thing she did is not engaging in any conversation with the company or its attorney until such time as she has obtained the advice of an attorney of her own.
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:56 PM   #11
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I think her old company pursuing the new company, so the new company is kinda on the hook to provide and pay for an attorney in my opinion.

And Yes, I'd consult an attorney and possibly pay few bucks to draft a response to the old company.

The new company is not involved.... they did not sign a non compete....
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Old 10-06-2015, 05:57 PM   #12
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The new company is not involved.... they did not sign a non compete....
But she works for them and the old one blaming use of customer list ?!
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:03 PM   #13
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Yes, she should get a lawyer.... this kind of law is complex and different in all states...

It makes a difference in what is in the non compete.... some states it matter if the person is a high enough level that they could be one...

If the company where she currently works is large, they might not want to get involved.... I would ask her boss his thoughts on that and go off what he says.... they might have a lawyer on staff that could send out a letter and stop the whole thing....


I know my old boss was threatening a couple of people who left the firm, but in the end nothing happened... I think his lawyer said he did not have a leg to stand on, so after the letter nothing happened...
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:04 PM   #14
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Did the new company know she had a non compete at the old place? If so they should probably help her. Also, all states are different in how they enforce these. She will need legal help in any case.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:06 PM   #15
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This is why it is a good reason to get legal insurance. Just being sued can ruin you.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:06 PM   #16
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But she works for them and the old one blaming use of customer list ?!

But the OP said nothing about them going after the new company... not that it might not happen....

That would be a big jump from going after her.... they would have to prove she actually brought a list.... and that the new company KNOWS she is using that list to get anywhere IMO.... just her knowing the customers is not enough..
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:07 PM   #17
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I'm not sure working for a competitor is enforceable - you have to be able to make a living. We have noncompetes as well but they don't prohibit you from working.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:08 PM   #18
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As long as she didn't violate the noncompete she has nothing to worry about except for the hassle and the cost of the process.


But yes, she needs to get competent counsel.
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Old 10-06-2015, 06:24 PM   #19
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Thanks all. She has reached out to an attorney and will be providing the details to him. I guess we will find out next steps.



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Old 10-06-2015, 06:31 PM   #20
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She should inform her current employer. They need to be aware of what her former employer is accusing her of since it could impact them.

She should hire her own attorney.
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