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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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Please could you tell me if a dog walking contract which forbids

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Please could you tell me if a dog walking contract which forbids you to take clients if you leave is legally binding?
Hello are you an employee of a business which has such a contract in place?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi, it is actually a lady who used to walk my dogs. She was employed by a dog walking company then left and I think a couple of her clients asked her to do the odd walk to help them out. She signed a contract stating that she would not walk any of the dogs from this company.
She has just received a letter demanding £5000, this includes around £3100 for walking my dogs for a year. However, this is based on the gross fee that the company might have received. He is demanding the lot but in reality he would only have kept some of this, say £15% as the rest would have gone to the dog walker. It's ridiculous as my brother now walks my dogs and I've only asked her on 2 or 3 occasions to help out, when her sister has taken the dogs.
The guy from the dog walking company has on several occasions been seen opposite my house, staring at the house for 30 mins or so at a time which is a little intimidating, he also follows her in his car.
The dog walker has no money and can't afford a lawyer, she is very distressed which is why I am asking for advice on her behalf.
He has no evidence of her walking my dogs and no money has changed hands between myself and my former dog walker.
Please could you advise on how she should proceed.
Thank you
Post-termination restrictive covenants are a rather common occurrence in employment relationships. An employer would want to protect their business from a departing employee's knowledge, business connections, influence over clients, etc. However, a covenant that restricts an employee's post-termination activities will be automatically unenforceable for being in restraint of trade, unless the employer can show that it was there to protect a legitimate business interest and did so in a reasonable way.
An employer cannot apply a restrictive covenant just to stop someone competing with their business, but it can seek to stop that person using or damaging their legitimate business interests by using a reasonably drafted covenant. There are a few different types of restrictive covenants that can be applied, these being:
1. Non-solicitation covenants are there to prevent an employee from enticing away the customers of their ex-employer and as long as they are reasonable are the most commonly enforced type of restriction. Solicitation generally means “directly or indirectly requesting, persuading or encouraging clients of the former employer to transfer their business to their new employer or to themselves". To be valid, the covenant should be restricted to customers with whom the employee had contact during a specified period before leaving. Other relevant factors may include the employee's level of seniority in the business, the extent of their role in securing new business and the length of similar restrictions in the employment contracts of competitors.
2. Non-dealing covenants are a wider restriction and not only restrict solicitation but any other general contact with clients. The enforceability of a non-dealing covenant will depend on the interest being protected and can be influenced by a substantial personal connection the employee enjoys with a specific client. However, such a covenant will not be enforceable if it prevents any sort of contact with the client. The restriction must be focused on the specific type of contact that would directly affect the employer's business.
3. Non-competition covenants prevent an employee from working with a competing business or setting up to work in competition with their ex-employer. Such general restrictions are seen as a restraint of trade and will be difficult to enforce. They will only be seen as reasonable if in the process of working in competition, the employee uses trade secrets or sensitive confidential information belonging to their ex-employer, or their influence over clients is so great that such a restriction is necessary. The length of the restriction and its geographical coverage will also be relevant.
Whilst restrictive covenants are mainly used as a scare tactic by employers, if an employee has acted in breach of a covenant and the employer is intent on pursuing the matter further they can do so. The following are potential outcomes if the employer takes legal action:
• Obtain an interim injunction preventing the employee from doing certain things that would make them in breach of the restrictive covenant
• Seek compensation for damages that have directly resulted from the breach of the covenants
In this case they are trying to seek damages but as you have identified these are not realistic or reasonable in the circumstances. The employer could only really seek compensation for the losses they have incurred as a result of the breach. In this case it certainly does not look like they have lost anything near what they are claiming and it appears to be a highly inflated claim.
What happens next really depends on what the employer’s intentions are. They could just be using this as a scare tactic and to be nuisance. They could however also make a claim for the compensation they are after. Even if they make the claim, it would be for them to prove that the restrictions were reasonable and that the amount they seek is fair and reasonable, which they are unlikely to be able to do. Also she would not need lawyers to defend this as it would go to the small claims court which is the venue for unrepresented individuals wher lawyers are not really needed. So whilst I cannot predict if this will go further or not, the above is what the legal position is and what a court would look at.
I hope this has answered your query. I would be grateful if you could please take a second to leave a positive rating (3, 4 or 5 stars) as that is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me on here and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You are welcome