156

I recently tendered my resignation at my current company (senior engineer; get along well with the teams, but my boss's boss promised big bonuses and raises they never delivered even when my team delivered on-schedule and under-budget). I was offered several counter-offers but declined since I don't trust management anymore, and pretty much all managers became hostile to me when they realized I'm not staying (I'm one of three critical employees in a certain area, and one is on maternity leave).

My employer has been trying to determine who my new employer is (not a direct competitor, but it's a large fortune 500 company that buys expensive things from my current employer on occasion). My employer has been trying to get me to sign these very lengthy non-compete agreements (that list about 30 companies viewed as "competitors", and have blanket clauses like "we can decide at any time who we deem to be a competitor").

I'm not signing anything, and managers from work (including some people I previously thought to be friends) are trying to join my LinkedIn profile and asking (repeatedly) about where I'm going. After swearing at one obnoxious/persistent manager who was messaging me via LinkedIn (and un-friending them; they were calling me "unprofessional" for not updating my profile with the new employer's name, just my job title instead), I get a call from my boss who stated that the company will make a point of taking legal action against me if they discover who my new employer is and they don't like it. I tried to be courteous and told him "oh, don't worry, it's not our industry, just another company who could use my skills in automation". The reply was "we can prevent you from working on automation tasks as per your non-compete: the industry doesn't matter".

Question: Should I just never update my LinkedIn profile for the next year or two (i.e. so my soon-to-be-ex-employer doesn't figure out where I'm going). This is stressing me out, and I don't have the money for a drawn-out legal battle.

4
  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jul 18 at 7:45
  • 9
    'The reply was "we can prevent you from working on automation tasks as per your non-compete: the industry doesn't matter"' — did you sign a non-compete agreement, perhaps as part of your employment contract when you joined the company? Jul 19 at 13:55
  • 6
    You didn't make it clear- do you have an existing non-compete, or just the one they asked you to sign now that you have not actually signed? Jul 19 at 18:37
  • 1
    @PaulD.Waite even if such an agreement is in place, it's not likely to be enforceable if it's written like that. Canada takes a very dim view of noncompete agreements.
    – Z4-tier
    Jul 21 at 0:41

11 Answers 11

197

Do not sign anything more from your current employer for any reason. You’re doing well there.

Block them all on LinkedIn and social media.

Do not share any further information about your future plans, even “not the same industry”, with them. “That’s none of your business” is answer enough, and they have been unprofessional enough you’d be justified in not serving the rest of your notice IMO.

Review whatever noncompete you've already signed, but it likely doesn't matter - noncompete clauses are only very narrowly enforceable in Canada and their claim "you can't do automation" would not stand up.

However, you are right to avoid conflict by not updating your LinkedIn/adding connections from your new company for a while (like your probation period or 3 months whichever is longest - there’s no reason to do it quickly really). I wouldn't delete your social media over this - it's yours and you have a right to use it. It's extremely likely they'll forget about this the week after you leave and they know they can't do anything about it anyway. If eventually they find out where you went, it is super unlikely they’ll really do anything and usually your new company will be happy to send them a lawyer letter telling them to get bent.

If they continue to harass you about this, you should keep records of each interaction (and make it clear you are) and potentially consult an employment lawyer to send them a cease & desist letter if they persist.

You're also within your rights to slag them on Glassdoor or whatever is more popular up there in the frozen North. "This may be the last place you work because they'll threaten you with noncompetes over any new job in any industry" would certainly give me pause before dealing with a company.

11
  • 116
    If they already had your signature on an employment contract that included an enforceable non-compete, they would not be acting so aggressively to get you to sign a new one. - In general, bullies stomp and rave the most when they've got nothin'. Jul 18 at 1:33
  • 1
    @NeilMeyer this, or at least deactivate any notifications and ingnore that site for a couple of years. OP already has a (hopefully good) new job, what good is linkedIn
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 19 at 7:34
  • 12
    @mxyzplk Another useful thing to do, in my opinion, is to start keeping a record of any interactions from now on and building up as much a record as possible of what already happened. In the event that there is some need to get a lawyer in the future a bunch of information like "19 July 2021, XXXX senior manager from ABC corp told me they intended to take legal action against me if I engaged in automation work regardless of which company it was for".
    – Eric Nolan
    Jul 19 at 11:32
  • 1
    @EricNolan I would consider this very important. May want to make this an answer as I do not see it in the others below and this should start immediately.
    – paulj
    Jul 19 at 14:55
  • 2
    I seems that, under Canadian law, even if the OP has signed a new non-compete there would have to be 'consideration' for the contract to be valid - in other words if the OP doesn't receive something of value in exchange for signing the non-compete then it's not enforceable.
    – brhans
    Jul 19 at 16:39
75

I suggest you contact a lawyer and lay out what your former employer is doing. What's going on here would seem to be a type of harassment. They may be able to write up a letter which can be forceful enough to cause the company to cease their negative behaviour towards you.

2
  • 13
    let me stress it again: ask REAL lawyer about validity of non-compete contracts with/without monetary compensation, not random weirdos on internet (= us ;) ) Jul 19 at 12:01
  • 2
    In addition to the others, do not delete Linkedin, keep a record of Linkedin message, any written message that links your current managers to this bullying/stalking/requests. Check your current contract and if any non-compete clause is present, ask for legal help (it may be expensive, but it may be cheap in the long-term ... think about 2 month salaries of your next job going into lawyer bills, instead of 0 month salaries from your future employer + damage costs to your actual employer)
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 19 at 13:42
29

Aside from what you’ve already been doing, I recommend not updating your LinkedIn with your new employer until after you pass your probation there.

You should also block new connection notifications on your linkedin and try to avoid connecting with new colleagues for a while, if possible.

1
  • 1
    good point about probation period, OP can just hibernate linkedin untill after then
    – PeterH
    Jul 19 at 20:35
17

Do you have a non-compete signed already? If no, and you don't sign this new one; then tell them to go pound sand. Do not sign anything, you have no obligation to sign paperwork from them and doing so can only hurt you. You owe them absolutely nothing and they way they're acting is honestly insane.

If you've signed an offer letter with the next company and everything's squared away, I might consider just refusing to work the rest of my notice period and stop responding to them. If they continue to harass you, get a lawyer to send them a cease and desist.

2
  • Agreed. But this doesn't really address the question.
    – donjuedo
    Jul 18 at 0:01
  • if the company requires an employee to sign a non-compete and the employee doesn't, what's the worst outcome? firing an already leaving employee? Aug 15 at 13:56
10

Use their unprofessional LinkedIn activity against them

Since they are currently (and improperly) surveilling your LinkedIn profile for the answer to a particular question, use that against them.

Create a flurry of LinkedIn activity that seems to answer their question. For instance, add 5 new friends all from the same company (that isn't the company you are joining). If you have friends at your previous company, those would do nicely.

Bonus points if your friends will report back to you any improper contacts by your current company.

Once your current company feels they have the answer to their question, they are going to stop badgering you for it. So that mission is accomplished!

"Put that on paper, so I can review it."

Of course that will probably not be the end of their harassment, so you'll need a comeback to anything else they pull. That comeback is the above.

On its face, this is a very simple request, and what possible objection can they have?

However, behind the curtain it's a much bigger deal, and it really puts them on their back foot. Now, it's no longer deniable. No competent manager is going to put a request on paper unless they are dead sure their request is legal.

My old company has an adage: if you worry about the public finding out what you're doing, you probably shouldn't be doing it. The rule is, if you get that feeling, escalate up to management and Legal.

And that's exactly what the people in question will probably do. And with any luck, they'll escalate to someone who will tell them that's a bad idea.

Or alternately, the company will come at you with a united front and with full commitment, and you'll get it on paper. You don't give an answer then. You put it in your pocket and take it home "and review it", meaning run it by an employment lawyer, which is exactly what they are expecting. Which is exactly what you should do, because if they have the brass spheres to actually give you that on paper, there may be a complication we're not thinking about.

1
  • Good thoughts. Sites like glassdoor can be used later on to share experiences, but do that after the parting is done and dusted. Bridges can be burned from either side.
    – Criggie
    Jul 20 at 6:07
8

My interpretation of your employer's actions is not so much that they will be taking legal action against you (despite what they claim), but that they will be threatening your new employer, either legally, or business-wise. If the threats against your new employer are strong enough, your new employer may rescind your employment offer.

They are either attempting to force you stay with this company, whether you like it or not, or they are trying to leave you jobless as petty retribution for leaving them in a difficult spot.

Proceed with extreme caution!

If they learn who your new employer is, you may quickly find yourself without your new job, and possibly without your prior job either.

Start taking HARD defensive actions.

  • Scrub your LinkedIn friend list and any other media that might disclose your employer.
  • Don't tell anyone new about your employer!
    Not even friends or former co-workers who might indirectly, inadvertently disclose your info.
  • Make your new employer aware of the threats, so they can take defensive actions as well.
    As a side-effect, that your former employer is being so combative might re-assure your new employer of your high value and importance!
2
  • 1
    No. I don't think they would ask the new employer to rescind the contract, that would expose them to a legal action. These discussions happen often, but they are always kept as secret as possible. They don't end in explicit actions to prevent employees from understanding what happened.
    – FluidCode
    Jul 19 at 15:34
  • 5
    Don't make new employer aware IMO. Why scare them off? Jul 19 at 16:03
6

If they insist so much to find out who is the new employer probably they want to contact one of their managers and start a discussion on the style don't dare to hire one of my employees any more. This things often end up amicably, but they could also get nasty, nobody will ever tell anything to you about it, but the mood around you might change, so you better avoid it.

You better leave your linkedin account untouched for a couple of years, you also should avoid accepting friendship from new colleagues because ex colleagues, you didn't unfriend yet, would shurely check if you have new contacts and who they are working for. But on the other hand keep in mind that if your ex employer really want to find out who is the new one they have a lot of ways to do so, if they keep tampering you it might be a good sign, meaning that they didn't access your private data or legal/insurance records.

For what matter the possibility of a legal action as other users advised don't sign anything. Unless they have some very strong clauses from your original employment contract the cost of a legal action would be an hindrance also for their side. Probably they would not go beyond the threats.

5

Once you start the new job you won't be able to keep it a secret for ever! The question isn't whether you can keep the old company in ignorance, it's whether their non-compete argument has any validity.

From what you tell us, they seem to be acting quite unreasonably. But, with respect, that's quite normal when we only hear YOUR side of the argument!

You can't hide from this. Take expert advice.

5

Linked-In is good for people that look for new jobs and side opportunities

There is no real reason to update it otherwise.

As for your current situation, you are doing everything right, do not sign anything and do not disclose ANY extraneous information.

I assume, if you being bashed in to a non compete signing , you have none or not-enforceable in your contract

Also, non compete clauses are practicality not enforceable in Canada

As a general rule, more blanket and less specific non compete clause is the less enforceable it is. No one can preclude you as a person to earn a living doing your professional work.

Check this one

First, employers must identify some legitimate interest which requires the protection of a non-compete clause that cannot be protected by a non-solicitation provision. Second, the provision must be no broader than is necessary to protect that legitimate interest. Finally, the provision must contain precise language which clearly identifies what the employee may or may not do.

The temptation to use expansionary language and words of association should be resisted. As the IRIS and Ceridian cases make clear, such language may only serve to introduce an element of ambiguity and broaden the scope of the non-compete clause beyond what is intended to be covered, and thus in the end risk achieving no protection at all.

2

Question: This is stressing me out, and I don't have the money for a drawn-out legal battle.

Being bullied is always stressful and those feelings are real and logical. The issue is these jokers have no leg to stand on.

Refer them to the link provided by mxyzplk at most, and inform them that you are no longer willing to discuss the issue further. Any attempts for them to do so should be noted in a written record. This is harassment, and you have grounds to sue them for real money. Lawyers often take these on a contingency basis so there will be no out of pocket costs to you.

While they may be a profitable company, they do not have the money to fight you in court. It will cost them at least 20x to bring this case against you that it will cost for you to defend it. Plus, if you have a good lawyer, he will counter sue for at least your attorney's fees. You will win, and they will lose.

IMHO, it is just bullying so you accept their counter offers.

The key to defeating such bullies is knowing that you will walk away unscathed, and if they keep it up they can be really hurt.

2

Should I just never update my LinkedIn profile for the next year or two

It will be easier for you if you don't (plus the main advantage of linkedin is getting new jobs, and you've already got one :) )

But the single most important piece of advice here...

Document everything

Do you have a copy of everything they are coercing you to sign? Do you have screenshots of managers complaining that you won't state the name of your new employer? In any legal action, screenshots and documents will be worth 100x more than your spoken testimony.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .