Can I start a competing business with my employer and solicit clients if I never signed any agreement preventing this?

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Can I start a competing business with my employer and solicit clients if I never signed any agreement preventing this?

I have been with a company for 10 years. When people start they always sign a non-compete and non-solicitation agreement. I started as an intern and then was hired but my boss never had me do a new hire pamphlet for some reason. We are a very small company, so I can see her forgetting. Now, 10 years later, I am going to start a new business in the same field. One of our current clients is also going to be my partner and his business is going to move his account to this new business. Is there any way my boss could come after us? Also, would I be able to openly solicit to the current clients once I left?

Asked on November 16, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You can solicit current clients as part of more general advertising, marketing, etc. (e.g. if you do large mailings or emailings, they can be included). You cannot *target* current clients however, even without a nonsolicitation agreement, between you cannot use information you were given only for the employer's benefit for your own purposes: such is theft of business propety. You were given the client "list" for the employer's benefit, not yours; you may not misappropriate that business information for yourself. So you can work with current clients but can't use the customer list or information you have from working with the employer for that purpose--just solicit them as part of generally marketing your new venture.
Not using the employer's information or property should be the only limitation on you, in the absence of a non-solicitation or non-competition agreement.


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