Friday, June 09, 2006, 6/09/2006 03:42:00 PM

Former Employee Gets a Little Salty About Losing Her New Job

By Todd
Put this one in the category of disgruntled former employee. Cross Sales & Engineering Company markets electronic and automation components for industrial machinery. Kathleen White used to work for Cross as a customer service representative in the Raleigh/Durham North Carolina area. Ms. White signed a noncompete and confidential information agreement with Cross that restricted her future employment options.

Ms. White resigned from Cross in May of 2002 and during her exit interview refused to tell Cross where she was going to work. When asked specifically if she was going to work for Control Corporation of America, a direct competitor of Cross, she gave it the old "no comment." Cross did as they should and reminded her of the noncompete/confidentiality agreement and off she went.

Later in May, 2002 she was working for the direct competitor. Cross's president sent a letter to the president of the direct competitor that the latter failed to respond to. Cross's attorneys then sent the nasty-gram that alleged the direct competitor knowingly was violating the noncompete/confidentiality agreement and was in independent violation of the North Carolina Trade Secrets Protection Act. After Cross got no response to that one, they sued on July 8, 2002. The direct competitor got sued, too. They didn't like that. So they sent Ms. White a nastier-gram that said she was being terminated from her new job.

In January of 2004, the jobless Ms. White sued Cross saying her former employer had tortiously (read: wrongfully) interfered with her job at Control Corporation of America - which she also sued. Anyway, the lower court granted summary judgment to Cross and Ms. White appealed. The Court of Appeals of North Carolina noted that the motives of Cross were that it wanted to protect its trade secrets and other confidential information and wanted to limit the unfair competition that it would face at the hands of Ms. White. In other words, it was trying to protect its own interests and not simply to cause harm to Ms. White. This is important because one of the elements of a tortious interference claim is that the party interfering was "acting without justification." The Court of Appeals said, rightfully in our view, that Cross WAS JUSTIFIED in threatening and suing the new employer and Ms. White.

Case closed. We bet Ms. White would like to turn the hands of time backward. The case is cited as White v. Cross Sales & Engineering Company, 2006 WL 1526912 (June 6, 2006 N.C. Ct. App.).

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