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NorthernRed1984

Employer Claiming Breach of Contract & Bribery

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Good Afternoon,

 

Hoping someone can help. I recently worked for a company for two years, from November 2017 to September 2019.
I was promoted twice within this period and in May 2019 demoted, in what my eyes was an unfair demotion.
I left the company on 2nd Sept 19 and was given 4 weeks gardening leave, in lieu of my notice period, and did not work for anyone else. 
I commenced work on 5th October for a competitor, which my ex employers clearly dont like and they have now commenced legal action against me, believing I must have taken a bribe before i left, in exchange for sets of Data (I worked in Sales).
The legal case is accusing me of taking £2,000 in exchanging for the said data, which did not happen and then leaving the company.
There is no evidence of any wrongdoing as this didn't happen but they have one person, accusing that the money was offered, which it wasnt.

I have been sent legal letters from a solicitor trying to bully me into accepting I took a bribe of some description and accept all liabilities - which I clearly won't do as did nothing wrong

I left the company purely due to what I saw as an unfair demotion, decrease in pay and them reducing my salary by £1500 per year.
I am looking to find out the legalities, as I have been hounded and harassed by the old company since i left over a month ago and even though I work for a competitor now, there is absolutely no substance to what is being said.
My new company are deemed a competitor, but I worked my gardening leave, so cannot see an issue my side.

 

Please can someone advise.

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2 issues, and you’d be better looking at them / dealing with them separately.

1) Use of commercially sensitive info : you deny this and put them to strict proof of it

2) Taking a job with a competitor : is there anything in your contract with the first employer that limits you working for a competitor / within a set period of time? 

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Hi Bazza,

 

1 - Yes there is absolutely zero proof. When i resigned, I submitted my 4 weeks notice and they put me on gardening leave. Whilst I did they checked my computer for any breach and found nothing. They have now said, well it must be in a hard copy form, which it is also not. Is it their job to prove it? As they clearly can't prove anything.

 

2 - Yes there was a clause in my contract stating I cannot work for a competitor within 6 months. I did however complete their required gardening leave of 4 weeks. Being a competitor is also heavily disputed as we do the same thing, but the sectors are different.

 

Thanks for the reply.

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4 weeks isn’t 6 months. It will hinge on if they are a competitor. You have described them as a competitor (so not a good start!), and it is hard to give an opinion from “as we do the same thing, but the sectors are different.” without more detail / context.

Edited by BazzaS

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Thanks Bazza,

 

1 - Just to clarify - would it be my ex-employers job to prove that I supposedly leaked the info? 

2 - Apologies, I wasn't aware that you had to complete gardening leave and this also tied to the non-compete, I was under the impression that it was one or the other.

 

As part of their case I have been sent an undertaking and have no idea what to do - obviously I won't accept part 1 and cannot accept part two or I will be out of work which isnt easy to come by in our area.

 

 

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I advise you to get a solicitor. You are being accused of theft of data and accepting a bribe. They are serious allegations of criminal conduct. You need a robust legal response.

 

The 'not working for a competitor' issue is very different, legally. It's nothing to do with criminal law, it's a contractual dispute. Again a lawyer who you can give the full facts to needs to advise you. There are at least 2 issues. (a) are your old employer entitled to restrict your ability to work for another employer in that way (that's a legal question), and (b) is the company you have started work with actually a competitor (that's a question of fact mainly, it will need to b proved by old employer).

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Thanks Ethel,

 

For the allegations, this will be their job to prove as their is no evidence to even support this, apart from one person who has said we we offered money - and he has now backtracked saying he didnt say a thing!

 

I am more than happy to get legal advice, but am more concerned about the undertaking and what the steps should be from here.

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And also....

 

There was three of us accused of the data/theft situation and i am the only one who has legal proceedings commences against him.....

 

This seems to be purely as I am working for the other company

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Do NOT give any undertaking before receiving independent professional legal advice. Signing an undertaking can be, in effect, an admission that you are guilty of what they have alleged. Consult an employment solicitor asap.

Edited by Ethel Street

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I don’t disagree that the OP should seek legal advice.

 

JFYI, you can’t steal information : so can’t be guilty of theft of data.

You can commit the criminal offence of stealing the property the information is contained within (the CD / DVD / drive), or can be liable to a civil suit regarding the misuse of the info, but you can’t “steal” the information itself:

http://www.e-lawresources.co.uk/Oxford-v-Moss.php

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18 minutes ago, BazzaS said:

FYI, you can’t steal information : so can’t be guilty of theft of data.

 

 

I know 😀 I used the term loosely. Potentially there are other criminal offences within the scope of the allegation - eg unauthorised access to a computer under the Computer Misuse Act, possibly Data Protection/GDPR offences depending what the data was. Hence I stress OP must not give any undertakings without first having professional legal advice.

Edited by Ethel Street

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I would say let them do their worst, it will surely backfire on them.

Now with restrictive contracts that stop you working fro competitors- these are notoriously vague so often not worth the paper they are written on. also they have to be fair so for example if there are only 2 companies in the UK that make a certain product your employer cant say you arent allowed to work for the other one. If you were for example trained as a hairdersser and you were going to open a salon in the next street to your ex employer then the restriction would apply if worded correctly.

Dont panic about this, your new employer will be au fait with the situation and time spent worrying about a nastly letter will in their eyes take you eye off the ball so concentrate on the new job.

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