Do you have the right to poach former colleagues for a new job?

This article is from Management magazine

In the absence of a non-competition clause in your employment contract, it is quite possible to compete and take several of your best collaborators with you. On the other hand, poaching an entire team could be qualified as an act of unfair competition and, as such, sanctioned, as evidenced by a recent judgment.

In this case, a sales executive, head of department in an industrial maintenance company, had left to work for a competing company. At the time of his departure, a dozen of his collaborators, including his deputy, also joined the company in question. Their former employer then sued her to obtain compensation for the damage caused by these acts of unfair competition. He won his case before the Aix Court of Appeal, which condemned the rival company to pay 500,000 euros as a provision.

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The latter then appealed to the Court of Cassation, arguing that the recruitment of employees who had resigned could not constitute an act of unfair competition. However, it appears that the service where all worked comprised about twenty people; that 12 of them had joined the competing company and that the latter had even encouraged them to leave their employer. It therefore played an active role in the poaching of a large part of the service, which testifies to its desire to appropriate most of its know-how and its clientele and to disorganize it (Com., 23/ 06/21). The sentence of 500,000 euros was therefore confirmed. Poaching most of its employees in the same place can therefore be expensive for the employer!

By Lucien Flament, Lawyer at Valmy, specialist in labor law.

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