The Case of the Disloyal
Minneapolis, MN civil litigation attorney Tony Edwards talks about a case that he took on that he looks back on fondly.
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I represent a client that is a manufacturer. They happen to be in the printing field, and they had developed a very specialized printing process and actually had developed this piece of equipment that they use to do it that really they were the only ones in the industry who could do that. They had a senior person that worked on the production line, operating this piece of equipment, who, just a couple of years before he was intending to retire, was hired by a competitor. His pay was roughly doubled, and he told them, “I’m going there to help them develop a system similar to your system.” Now this was a guy who didn’t have a non-compete. All he had was a confidentiality agreement, and so we went into court and brought suit against him and his new employer, seeking to prevent him working there.
Minnesota law looks very unfavorably on non-compete agreements, and judges in Minnesota are very hesitant to keep people from working in their chosen profession or for their chosen employer, and so it was an uphill battle. I remember hearing, actually, later that the associate who had worked on the case for the other side, for the defendants, had told his boss, the partner, that he would return his license if he lost on this temporary restraining order that we were seeking, but ultimately we won that and restrained him from working for the new company. The court sat the case on calendar for a hearing 60 days out for what’s called a temporary injunction to prevent him from working for this new company through trial. We had a two-day litigated hearing, and we won there as well, and so ultimately, even though we had pretty limited contractual protections to keep this guy from working for the new company, we were successful in doing that. As I said, that’s an area of law that tends to be pretty harsh on employers that are seeking to prevent people from working. This was a situation, though, where the judge I think was convinced that was just the right thing to do, and there was no questions that that was what this guy and his new employer intended, so it was a great outcome and one that required some imagination by the judge and a lot of hard work, and we were very proud of that.