What can my boss do to stop my starting up my own company?

I used to work for a badminton company. I was there for 3 years and then left 3 months ago. I gave notice verbally and told them 3 months before that I was looking to leave (2 months ago). I found a new job and left and gave them a letter regarding so 3 days before leaving. I told them that I would be going because I needed more money and I wanted to start my own company. They were happy as long as I sold the brand they did. I then started my company and joined with 2 partners and wanted to sell other brands besides what I said I was going to. My former employer said that will not trade with me and sent a very legal letter saying I am not allowed to start a company up using the skills I learned, and any knowledge I have, from working at the company. They said that I am in breach of my post-employment obligations. Also, they said that I have copied documents from the company databases and have their information, and that I have 7 days to cease all actions which are in breach of my contract and to send a letter back within 7 working days or they will take necessary legal actions. Can anyone help me? I am 21 and just want to start up my own company.

Asked on March 29, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) If you signed any contracts that limit your ability to start your own business or compete, those contracts are enforceable. So if you signed any non-competition or non-solicitation agreements or clauses, you can be held to their terms.
2) You may not use specific former employer knowledge gained only as part of your employment to compete with them or otherwise for your own benefit: so no customer lists, vendor or parts lists, etc.
3) You MAY use general skills or knowledge of the industry, even if you gained it at the former employer, so long as it's the sort of thing you *could* have learned elsewhere; it's only the specific proprietary and confidential information of your employer which you can't use.
a) If you did copy any documents, you can't use them and must return or destroy/erase--and provide proof of doing so--them.
4) You can compete with them, so long as you did not sign an agreement to not compete.
5) They of course do have the right to no trade with or otherwise do business with you.

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