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?