Non-competition clauses prohibit employees from accepting work with their employers’ competitors while and after they are employed. Sometimes, they even prevent individuals from starting their own businesses in the same field in which they were employed. The reverse of a non-competition clause is also legal and enforceable in Washington state: non-solicitation of employees clauses. This type of agreement requires employees and the companies they work for to agree not to seek out other similar companies’ employees and offer them work. Usually, they are put into effect upon an employee’s resignation or termination from the company that crafted the agreement. Employees are held to the requirement that if they accept work with a competing company in the future, they may not seek the first employer’s current staff to attempt to bring them to the competition.
All forms of non-solicitation agreements are part of the larger classification of employment contracts. Employment contracts are legally-binding written contracts that outline an employee’s duties, responsibilities, and anything he or she may not do while employed with the company that created the contract. Like non-competition clauses, non-solicitation clauses promote fair competition within an industry and protect companies’ investments and valuable developments.
Non-solicitation of employee clauses exist primarily to protect companies’ investment in their employees. In certain industries, such as the software development industry, employees go through months and even years of expensive, highly specialized training to be able to perform their jobs and contribute to the company’s success. To solicit a direct competitor’s employees for work, purposefully seeking already-qualified candidates that won’t need the investment of training or other types of job preparation, can be viewed as a type of theft. Chapter 49 RCW outlines the practices that are allowed and prohibited for businesses and their employees in Washington.
Reasonableness and Validity in Non-Solicitation of Employees Clauses
Like other non-solicitation clauses, non-solicitation of employees clauses must be determined to be valid for them to be enforceable. An unreasonable clause, one that the contracted employee simply cannot adhere to because of its strictness regarding the actions he or she is permitted to do, may be determined to be invalid by the court.
A reasonable non-solicitation clause contains language that creates professional boundaries for the employee without creating a hindrance on his or her career. Employees of a company are a significant monetary investment for the company and their skills and qualifications may be specialized for the industry in which the company operates, warranting protection by a clause. Any other reasons why a company’s employees necessitate such protection may also be taken into consideration by the court.
Employment Attorneys Can Help
If you would like to learn more about non-solicitation of employees clauses or other topics connected to employment contracts, contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP at 206-838-2504. Our team of expert employee law attorneys can help you determine whether or not your current clause is reasonable and if not, help you find solutions for it.