Can I sue an employee for leaving their contract early and setting up business in a competition with me?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I sue an employee for leaving their contract early and setting up business in a competition with me?

She was on a 2 year employment contract, I taught her the trade. She left 1 year in and is not conducting business .3 miles from my business. I also have 3 year non-compete for 25 miles after the termination of the contract. Im looking to have her stop conducting business within 25 miles or sue her for what I would make in the

last year of her contract.

Asked on October 12, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If you have a non-competition agreement, you can sue her if she violates it as she apparently is doing by setting up shop 0.3 miles from you. Note that courts will not enforce a 3-year compete against non-owner former employers (people you did not buy the business from), viewing them as excessively long, but you should be able to enforce the agreement for 6 - 12 months; the geographic radius of 25 miles is likely acceptable to the courts (i.e. not excessive) and so enforceable.
If she had a 2 year contract but left after 1, you may also be able to sue her for "breach of contract" for provable costs or losses directly traceable to her leaving early: e.g. the cost to recruit and train a replacement on an urgent, unexpected basis, or for lost profit if her leaving caused you to lose business or be unable to fulfill your own contracts with clients/customers, but you'd have to be able to prove with evidence how her breach (leaving early) led to these losses.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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