A company has enforced a restrictive covenant preventing a highly experienced employee from working for a competitor for six months.
The case involved a UK subsidiary of a worldwide group, offering professional services, and one of its consultants. The company had employed the consultant knowing that, with her experience, she would rise through the ranks quickly.
She was subsequently promoted to partner and then global head of the practice group. She terminated her employment at the end of January 2017 and gave notice that she wished to start working at an American firm carrying on a similar business.
The company pointed out that doing so would breach a non-compete clause in her contract. The relevant clause stated that she should not “within six months from the termination date… engage or be interested in any business carried on in competition with any of the businesses of the company”.
She argued that the clause was wider than reasonably required for the protection of the company’s interests as it prevented her from engaging in activities anywhere in the world.
The High Court found in favour of the company.
It held that the validity of the covenant had to be judged by reference to the consultant’s status within the company which gave her considerable access to protectable documents and information.
The level of engagement justified a restraint and six-month time limit was appropriate.
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Company prevents high-flyer from working for competitor EWHC 1278 (Ch)
EGON ZEHNDER LTD v MARY CAROLINE TILLMAN (2017)
Ch D (Mann J) 23/05/2017