Is the old owner offering jobs to my current employees a breach of the non-compete aggreement?

I purchased a auto repair shop from a guy I was working for about 3 years ago. We have a 5 year non-compete agreement. He has been working on cars here in town bit recently he has been offering jobs to my employee’s and bad mouthing me to customers and it’s really taken a toll on the company. I was wondering if I had any legal ground to stand on?

Asked on June 2, 2017 under Business Law, Nebraska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A non-compete agreement is a contract: it is enforceable as per its plain terms or language. Review what the agreement says; if it, by its terms, bars him from offering jobs to your employees, you could sue him for "breach of contract" seeking either or both of a court order barring this behavior and/or monetary compensation.
You may also be able to sue for defamation IF by "bad mouthing" you mean making untrue negative factual statements about you, such as by claiming that your garage has been sued or has been cited for safety or consumer violations when it has not been. A business, as well as a person, can be defamed and can take legal action for being defamed. 
Note that opinions are not defamation, so if he is stating opinions or value judgments like "His work is not as good as mine," or "He's greedy; he charges more than he should," that is legal and not defamation--he may say those things about you, and you may say them about him.

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