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Can I contact former customers in my new job?

Can you solicit clients from a former employer in Florida when working on your own or for another company? The ethics of doing so are somewhat fuzzy, yet there are times when you can do so. Consider these general rules.

What efforts has your employer put in place?

The type of agreements you may have signed when leaving your former employer often governs whether you can contact former clients in your new position. Laws covering these types of business torts indicate that your employer should have required you to sign a non-compete or a non-solicitation agreement to protect client lists and prevent you from going after old clients. However, these are often difficult to enforce.

In Florida, these agreements can be enforced if they meet Statute Section 542.335, if the following conditions are met:

  • The company has a valid reason for having these agreements.
  • Your former company doesn’t make it difficult for you to earn a living in the same line of work.
  • The company doesn’t limit competitors from hiring workers or attracting customers.

Generally, if client information is available to the public, you’ll be able to solicit a former customer. However, trade secrets are another matter. Some client lists may be subject to protection if it has independent economic value or is not readily ascertainable.

Defending against business torts

If you solicit a client with whom you did business at your old company, your old employer may have a case against you for an intentional tort. These charges can take a variety of forms.

Exploring defenses, such as necessity, may be used to defend against your former employer’s claims. Taking your time to present any contracts or documents from your previous job may help you prevail.