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Legal recruiter files suit after former employee flutters eyelashes at clients

Posted by: Laurence Simons 22/06/12

To Opposite World now, where an employer is suing a former employee.

More often than not, the parting of ways between an employer and an employee is amicable: handshakes and leaving drinks. You may, once in a blue moon, have to march someone out of the front door with their possessions in a box. Occasionally you might have to prise your way into an office cabinet stuffed with prawns. But these things are, at most, rare. Rarer still is an employer suing a former employee after they leave, but try telling that to Arlington-based company The McCormick Group (TMG).

As the Legal Times reports, the Group - a legal recruiting firm - filed suit against former employee Ed Lee to the tune of $100,000 (£64,000) this week. And why? Well: those contracts an HR makes you sign on your first day actually have some small print in them. They say you can't photocopy your bottom, and other boring stuff such as 'do work' and 'don't take any sick days'. And they also state, as in this case, that when you swan off to pastures new you don't take any of their client base with you.

According to the complaint, Lee's own personal employment agreement stipulated that he could not "engage in competitive activities" against them within 12 months of him leaving The McC G. They also drew a 100 miles circle on a map and firmly told him that if they saw him within it for the first six months after he left that they'd be really mad. Bit restraining order-y, perhaps, but businesses have to protect their interests, and TMG alleges Mr Lee subsequently solicited former clients after he struck out on his own after his leaving party on March 14th this year.

Lee disagrees, obviously, filing a motion to dismiss. "It's an unfortunate lawsuit," he said, standing at one end of a 100 mile-long tape measure, "one I believe is based on desire to stifle a new competitor." But the case does highlight the occasionally messy divorces that can occur between an employee and their former employer. And it's not just for those in legal jobs: any old office jockey can fall foul of non-competes. Any old idiot can get fired.

For those in employment law, the case should make a fun diversion, with employers suing employees rather than visa versa. But back in the real world, and New Zealand, a trio of former Allan Gray employees are suing the firm after being branded as "dishonest" in company-wide e-mails just before their dismissal. Alex Mueller, Anieq Samsodien and Neil Kleinsmith have filed, claiming for both damages and an apology after a malicious company-wide missive went out following their disciplinary meetings. Can you sue someone over an email? Once a date for the hearing is set, we'll let you know. The answer: 'probably'.