The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
Importance of paying more than ‘lip service’ to documents shown
The Schlumberger lawsuit is a lesson for employees “not to pay lip service” to legal contracts, according to an employment law expert.
Steve Cook, managing director of Law at Work, said: “Cases such as this are not desperately common.
“This particular case is further complicated as Mr Stokes was working in the US but the principles are the same.
“The most common clauses are the restrictive covenants placed on sales or business development employees as they have access to client information and it can be an expensive exercise for those tempted to breach such covenants though it’s unusual to go all the way to court – normally an injunction served by the court is sufficient for behaviours to change and problems to cease.
“This is, however, an object lesson for employees not to pay lip service to properly served legal documents or contracts.
“Schlumberger are claiming that Mr Stokes has ‘removed’ some intellectual property for the benefit of his new employer contrary to the restrictions in his contract of employment and also another document covering intellectual property, confidential information and noncompete agreement, all of which Mr Stokes agreed to by signing these documents upon commencement of employment.
“Many people think that non-compete or restrictive covenants are unenforceable but I would argue that a very well-drafted clause for an individual, taking into consideration their status in the business, should ensure enforceability.
“Unfortunately, many such clauses in employment contracts are very often copies from old documents and are included as standard in the company template contract of employment document – these clauses are very often not enforceable because the court would look at the whole picture of status, involvement, type of business, etc.”