The Pittsburgh Business Times recently reported that local coal and gas giant CONSOL is suing a former employee for breach of a noncompete. The employee in question wants to work for another energy firm.
From the PBT:
When Deemer [a senior geologist working on the company’s Marcellus Shale operations] left CONSOL on July 16 and the company learned she was headed for a position with Talisman Energy USA Inc., another Marcellus Shale exploration and production firm, her former employer sued her for breach of contract and Talisman for aiding in the breach, according to court documents.
In the case, CONSOL claimed that, in her capacity as a senior geologist, Deemer knew where the company had natural gas assets, the quality of those assets, what technologies CONSOL was planning to use to develop them and when, and how much profit they would yield. Deemer signed the noncompete agreement as part of her participation in CONSOL’s equity incentive plan.
Things like "where the company had natural gas assets, the quality of those assets, what technologies CONSOL was planning to use to develop them and when, and how much profit they would yield" are, quite plausibly, trade secrets that belong to CONSOL. If CONSOL could prove that the geologist had disclosed them or was likely to disclose them to her new employer, then CONSOL is likely entitled to a legal remedy -- maybe even an injunction of some sort.
But because CONSOL can stand on top of a noncompete, none of that is necessary.
Oh, and the PBT has an additional note pointing out how noncompetes may backfire in an industry that asks even indepedent contractors to sign them -- as the natural gas business is doing.
On this Labor Day, celebrate the freedom to work where you choose -- not just where your old boss says you can.