Can my ex-employer give me a client and then attempt to take them back?

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Can my ex-employer give me a client and then attempt to take them back?

I resigned from my job, and had no intention to continue business in the same field. A few clients called and asked me to work for them. I responded I no longer worked for the company, and that any assistance I gave would need to be cleared by my old boss. My old boss called me and asked me to assist the client directly, and suggested I open a new company to do so. He sent emails to the client advising them I was clear to do the work. After some investment in time and product, my ex-employer sent me notification to cease my actions. What are my options?

Asked on September 18, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) The former company can certainly try to woo the clients back, or else refrain from supporting you in your new endeavor---that is, as long as there's no agreement or contract requiring them to support you. Otherwise, they can rescind their offer to help.

2) However, unless you either signed (and are violating) some noncompetition agreement and/or are using trade secrets, a client/customer list (see below), or representing yourself as still affiliated with them, they can't stop you from working.

3) You might not have a right to use their client or customer list without permission--that's company property--though nothing stops you from marketing yourself generally and if any old clients or customers come to you, in the absence of a noncompete, you could work with them.

4) If the old company had specifically encourage you to contact  this client and it's provable, then even if you couldn't contact other clients, it would difficult for them to now say you can't work with this particular one. You should, however, bring any correspondence, memos, agreements, etc. to an employment law attorney who can evaluate this specific situation in detail for  you.


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