Can I work directly for a client instead of my company?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I work directly for a client instead of my company?

I work for a small website business, and have my own custom code running several websites. My employer is looking into phasing my code and my job out in favor of WordPress sites, but there are a couple of sites that would still require my coding.

Are there any legal ramifications for me to ask one of these clients if I can work for them directly, cutting out the middleman my company? They have no other people in my company working with them, I am the only one on their projects. I also already have my own business as well.

Asked on February 21, 2019 under Business Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can only not compete with or not solicit a former employer's clients if signed a noncompetition or nonsolicitation agreement; in the U.S., employees may compete with former employers in the absence of some agreement to not compete. 
You can't solicit or work for this employer's clients while working for them, or try to get the client to leave your employer for you. That is because since taking work from your employer while working for them could easily be seen as a form of misappropriate or theft--using their customer list or contacts for your benefit, for example--and so could result in you being liable to the employer. So save this for if and when you job is phased out.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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