Employer Tries to Enforce Noncompete, Virginia Says “No Way”!

This past November, the Virginia Supreme Court overruled a 1989 opinion on the wording of non-compete clauses.  In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, the court held Home Paramount’s non-compete clause to be too broad, thus reversing a 22-year old decision in which the same court had upheld the same employer’s almost identical language.

Justin Shaffer, the defendant in Home Paramount Pest Control, signed an employment agreement in connection with his hiring by the pest control company in January 2009.  The agreement contained a non-competition clause forbidding Shaffer for two years from engaging in a pest control business in any area that he had worked as an employee of Home Paramount, specifically:

The employee will not engage directly or indirectly or concern himself/herself in any manner whatsoever in the carrying on or conducting the business of exterminating, pest control, termite control and/or fumigation services … in any city, cities, county or counties in the state(s) in which the Employee works and/or in which the employee was assigned during the two (2) years from and after the date upon which he/she shall cease for any reason whatsoever to be an employee of [Home Paramount].

Shaffer resigned from Home Paramount in July 2009, and soon thereafter began work at a competing pest control business.  Home Paramount then filed a complaint against Shaffer claiming he had violated his non-compete clause.  Shaffer responded by filing a plea contending that the provision was legally overbroad and therefore unenforceable.  The circuit court of Fairfax County ruled in favor of Shaffer, holding that the provision was indeed overbroad and therefore unenforceable.  On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. Continue reading