Ridout Barron


Employment contract disputes can follow staff poaching

Employers in Alberta typically do what they can to avoid losing a valuable employee. Employment contract disputes sometimes arise when an employee resigns -- especially if he or she intends to join the ranks of the opposition. Whether the employer will have grounds for a lawsuit may depend on the language of the employment contract and, if it involves poaching by the opposition, the intent of the other company.

Canadian courts do not want to see the rights and liberty of an individual hampered, nor are they in favour of restricting opposition. For that reason, the court finds clauses that prohibit an employee from going to work with a competitive company problematic. Although an employer can sue a person for violation of a noncompete or nonsolicitation agreement, these are difficult cases to prove in court.

However, problems may arise for a former employee who had a restricted covenant agreement. If that person was a senior staff member with a fiduciary obligation that played a role in managing or directing the business, poaching former colleagues from that company can lead to problems. Even more severe legal problems can arise when an employee is poached because he or she has valuable and confidential information such as intellectual property, client lists or trade secrets.

When it is only a person's skills that a poacher is after, there may not be grounds for a lawsuit. Nevertheless, employees or employers in Alberta who are involved in employment contract disputes may have questions about the viability of lawsuits and the appropriate way forward. The most logical step might be to consult with an experienced employment law lawyer who can assess the circumstances, explain the options and offer ongoing guidance and assistance.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "What is employee poaching?", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on May 11, 2017

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