You work for a company for 30 years, acquire a skill, and then join a new, smaller company doing the same job. You think you have reached a certain level of success. But, no, you have not. That is Teresa Jackson’s exprience. She worked for the Scooter Store in Newe Braunfels, Texas for over 31 years as a sales representative. She left to join Patient’s Choice, LLP of Arlington Heights, Illinois. Patient’s Choice is a competitor of the Scooter Store.
The Scooter Store sent a cease and desist letter to Ms. jackson and filed suit. They later added Patient’s Choice to the lawsuit. So, Patient’s Choice fired Ms. Jackson to get out of the lawsuit. Patient’s Choice offered to rehire Ms. Jackson if she settled the case with the Scooter Store. But, she reached an agreement with Scooter Store not to work for any competitors for two years. She said she tried to find a lawyer to help her. She spoke to 17 lawyers but could not find anyone to help her.
The Scooter Store said it would suffer irreparable injury if Ms. Jackson was not stopped. Meaning apparently, that the Scooter Store sought a temporary restraining order stopping her from selling scooters for any competitors. Ms. Jackson denies the Store’s claims. She says she has no trade secrets. She just knocks on doctor’s doors until someone buys a scooter. Ms. Jackson says she was railroaded.
I am sure she is correct. Ms. Jackson must have signed a non-compete agreement with the Scooter Store. Texas has a statute that addresses the permissible limits of a non-compete agreement. Judges impose some limits. But, still a valid non-compete agreement will impose a time limit and a geographic limit on a worker going to work for a competitor. Two years is about as long as any court will allow such an agreement. The geographic limits can include states or regions. The law, in effect, recognizes a temporary, local sort of slavery. It is part of the price we pay to support businesses and "job growth."
As I have explained to many potential clients, there is no guarantee that the law will be fair. Ms. Jackson cannot work for a competitor for two years. She cannot do work in which she has surely found some success. But, in the meantime, she must pay her bills and will likely end up in a new industry doing some new job for much less pay. In two years, employers like People’s Choice may not want her skills. See San Antonio Express News report.
Yes, its is hard to find an employment lawyer. We are out here. But, even if Ms. Jackson did find one of us, there may have ben nothing anyone could do. Most employers know how to draft a non-compete agreement to make it binding. The NFL has free agency. Local business does not.