Can my boss really sue me if I am engaging in an activity that does not interfere with her business?

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Can my boss really sue me if I am engaging in an activity that does not interfere with her business?

I currently work in a child care facility. When I started they said we may watch children from the day care outside of the day care as long as it is not during their business hours. Now I am quitting and a family has asked me to be their nanny just for the summer because they pull their kids out every summer. My boss is threatening to sue me because she said I can’t watch children from their daycare for a whole year. Can she sue me if I am not interfering with her business?

Asked on June 14, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There is no general legal right to prevent employees from competing with an employer, so the issue is what you agreed to. If you signed any sort of a noncompeition agreement, that agreement is likely to be enforceable (ones which are too long in duration or too broad in terms of what is not permitted are often "blue penciled," or judicially modified by the courts, to more reasonable levels). So if you have signed any noncompetition agreement, your employer may be able to sue you; you should bring the agreement to an employment law attorney to review with you.

On the other hand, in the absence of noncompetition agreement (or non-competition clause in some other contract), the employer would seem to have no basis to successfully sue you. The fact that she "said" you could not watch children during work hours is irrelevant in this context, in the absence of an actual agreement; she certainly could have fired you for doing this, but if you're quitting anyway, that will not matter.

Note that your boss may try to sue you, even without an agreement--but you should have good grounds to quickly get that suit dismissed.


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