Man disputes non-compete clause in former employer's agreement

Kelly Holleran Aug. 26, 2013, 2:06pm

A Tyler County man has filed suit against his former employer, alleging he should not be bound by a non-compete clause that he did not submit to when he was hired. 

Lee Murphy claims defendants Richard Industrial Group, Richard Design Services, Richard Construction and Richard Automation and Electric hired him as vice president of Turn Key Services on June 1, 2009.

During Murphy’s employment, the defendant companies presented Murphy with a shareholder agreement that contained non-disclosure and non-competition restrictions, according to the complaint filed Aug. 16 in Jefferson County District Court.

Before he could request revisions to the shareholder agreement, Murphy began to receive shares of stock from the Richard companies as additional compensation, the suit states.

“At the time the stock shares were issued to him, Murphy had neither executed any shareholder agreement for any Richard company nor promised to do so at any time thereafter,” the complaint says. “Murphy currently owns 568 shares of each of the Richard companies.”

On July 25, 2013, Murphy resigned from Richards. Since then, the companies have demanded that he comply with the non-disclosure and non-compete clauses of the shareholder agreements, he claims. They have threatened to sue both Murphy and any of his future employers for alleged violations, according to the complaint.

“Murphy is under no obligation to comply with the terms of the shareholder agreements since he neither executed nor agreed to be bound by them as they are written,” the suit states.

In his complaint, Murphy is seeking a court declaration saying that he is not bound by the terms of the shareholder agreement, does not owe a duty of non-disclosure or non-compete to defendants, is not in possession of trade secrets and is not prevented from seeking employment with any employer. He is also seeking attorneys’ fees, court costs and other relief the court deems just.

Jon B. Burnheiser, Scot E. Sheldon and Heather L. Blackwell of Moore Landrey in Beaumont will be representing him.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Case No. A194-640

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