The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Im­por­tance of pay­ing more than ‘lip ser­vice’ to doc­u­ments shown

- Discrimination · Human Rights · Society · United States of America

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.”

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