In United Rentals, Inc. v. Myers, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25287, United Rental, Inc. was a Delaware corporation with principal business operations in Connecticut that employed Ms. Charlotte Myers in its Shreveport, Louisiana office from May 20, 2002, to March 7, 2003. She signed an employment agreement with United Rentals on her first day of work that contained non-compete and confidentiality clauses that prohibited employment for a period of twelve months at any competing company located within one hundred miles of a United Rentals location where she worked.
The restrictive covenants further stated that the state and federal courts in Fairfield County, Connecticut would have jurisdiction in the event that legal proceedings ensued. Upon her voluntary termination from United Rentals, Ms. Myers began to work at Head & Enquist Equipment, Inc., a competitor, at an office located approximately ten miles away from the United Rentals’ Shreveport office. United Rentals contacted her to remind her of the restrictive covenants and her obligations under them but she continued her employment with Head & Enquist.
United Rentals sued Ms. Myers in Connecticut federal court for breach of the non-compete and confidentiality agreements and sought a court injunction to enforce their provisions. The court found in favor of United Rentals and granted its request to enforce the non-compete agreement.
Ms. Myers presented various arguments to the court to persuade it to deny enforcement of the agreement, but the court ultimately found in favor of United Rentals. She argued that Louisiana law should be controlling in the legal dispute, and further asserted that Louisiana law does not permit “choice of law” clauses in employment agreements.
The court investigated Ms. Myers’ contention and explained that the proper procedure to determine if a “choice of law” clause is permissible is to consult the law of the state being selected, in this case, that of Connecticut. Connecticut law however cannot be the “choice of law” state when there is another state with a “materially greater interest…in the determination of the particular issue”. The court held that Louisiana did in fact have a greater interest in the dispute and thus Louisiana law was applicable and controlling for the case.
The Court’s Decision
Although Louisiana law is less than favorable to United Rentals with regard to “choice of law” clauses, it still recognizes that parties are entitled to a remedy in connection with a violation of a confidentiality agreement “if the material sought to be protected is in fact confidential”. Courts generally view the disclosure of confidential information as sufficient evidence for a company to establish that it would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction were not granted.
During her employment with the company, Ms. Myers was exposed to and had access to United Rentals’ trade secrets, contract details, customer data, financial information, and marketing plans/strategies. The court held that this was clearly sensitive and confidential information, the content of which entitled United Rentals to protection in the form of a court-ordered injunction.
The court held for United Rentals despite applying Louisiana law in response to Ms. Myers’ justified assertion that this specific “choice of law” provision was not valid. Although Louisiana law shuns “choice of law” provisions in non-compete agreements, it does support injunctions when it is necessary and proper for a company to protect its confidential business information.
The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.