Whether you own and operate a business in Nashville, or in any other part of Tennessee, or are an employee or executive, you may find yourself entangled in a dispute about an employment agreement, compensation, or severance pay. Employment law is a complex area. It is fraught with substantial negative consequences for employees and employers who try to “go it alone” or who delay in seeking the advice of an experienced employment lawyer or law firm.
We have over forty years of combined experience representing both employers and employees in lawsuits, arbitrations and mediations related to employment in Nashville and in other parts of Tennessee. We recognize that, apart from the financial cost of litigation and arbitration, your skills, opportunities, business operations, not to mention blood pressure, are negatively affected each day your matter remains in litigation and unresolved. Therefore, our goal is to try and find the least costly way to resolve your employment dispute favorably so that you can get out of litigation.
Sometimes, there is no quick and easy way to resolve an employment related dispute or employment agreement dispute. If your case cannot be settled, it is important that you have a law firm that has a reputation for skillfully and thoroughly preparing a case for trial or arbitration and which has a proven track record of success in court. Ross Pepper and Matt Brothers are experienced trial lawyers who have that reputation, and who are committed to providing the best possible result for each client they represent.
A frequent source of conflict between employers and employees are non-competition agreements (sometimes referred to as “non-compete agreements”), non-solicitation agreements, and non-disclosure agreements. In addition to non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure agreements, there are many other sources of employment disputes such as:
- Severance pay agreements
- Bonus plans, bonus agreements, and bonus contracts
- Commissions, commission plans, and commission agreements
- Deferred compensation agreements
- Stock options, stock option plans, and stock option agreements
- For cause termination provisions
- Sales representative agreements
- Executive compensation agreements
There are many published Tennessee cases which recite the general rule that non-competition agreements are disfavored. The reality, however, is that many non-compete agreements are upheld, though the courts, with some frequency, reduce the geographical or time restrictions of non-compete agreements. Here are some frequently asked questions about non-compete agreements and the answers to those questions:
Q: Under what circumstances might a Tennessee court choose to refuse to enforce a non-competition agreement in any way?
A: If the court determines that the employer seeking to enforce the non-compete agreement has no “legitimate business interest” to protect, then it must refuse to enforce the non-compete contract. The fact that a former employee may be engaging in ordinary competition against its former employer does not give rise to a “legitimate business interest” that an employer can protect with a non-compete agreement. To prove a “legitimate business interest,” the employer must show “special facts” that demonstrate that the former employee would have an unfair advantage if the non-compete contract was not enforced. Here are some facts that might prove that the employer has a “legitimate business interest:”
- The employer provided the employee with specialized training
- The employee was given access to trade secrets, business secrets or other confidential information
- The employer’s customers tend to associate the employer’s business with the employee
Q: If the court finds that the employer has a “legitimate business interest” to protect, what factors will it look at to determine whether the time and territorial limitations of the non-compete agreement should be modified or reduced?
A: Typically, the main focus of the court’s inquiry will be the hardship to the employee of the enforcement of the non-compete and the damage to the employer if the non-compete was not enforced. In many cases, the outcome might depend on:
- How easy would it be for someone who had never been employed by the employer to identify the customers of the employer
- The customer contacts and areas/territories in which the former employee worked
- The customers and areas the employee is handling with the new employer
- How easy would it be for someone who had ever been employed by the employer to determine the pricing structure of the employer
- The duration of the relationship between the employer and employee
Litigation related to non-compete, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure agreements can be very costly. Moreover, since such lawsuits very frequently proceed on the fast track because an injunction is requested, legal fees can mount rapidly in such cases. Non-competition agreements, non-solicitation agreements, and non-disclosure agreements almost always contain provisions which can require one party to pay some, or all, of the attorneys’ fees and expenses incurred by the opposing side. Thus, it is crucial that employers and employees obtain legal advice at the outset of such disputes.
If you retain the law firm of Pepper & Brothers to assist you in your non-competition, non-solicitation, or non-disclosure case, or other employment agreement case, you will have the benefit of a law firm with experience and insight from “both sides of the aisle” as we have been representing both employers and employees for over forty combined years in employment contract cases.
In addition to representing employers and employees in federal courts and state courts in Nashville, Tennessee, Pepper & Brothers handles employment agreement cases in all areas of Middle Tennessee including, Williamson County, Rutherford County, Sumner County, Dickson County, Wilson County, Cheatham County, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Lebanon, and Dickson.