Tech Data Company “Own” Sued for Trying to "Own" Its Employees With Hidden Noncompete Contracts

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, NJ – In the shadow of the Federal Trade Commission banning noncompete agreements, Own a/k/a OwnCompany Inc. (f/k/a OwnBackup Inc.), a leading data platform player in the digital technology and data processing industry, and whose website boasts partnerships with Microsoft, Salesforce and AWS (Amazon), is facing a Federal Antitrust lawsuit from a former employee.

In the complaint filed in the Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, the employee alleges that Own has engaged in a pattern and practice of hiding illegal noncompete provisions within secondary employment agreements and not informing employees of the noncompete restrictions until they are terminated.

The employee bringing suit was hired by Own as a Corporate Events Manager and worked for the company for 5-months until the company eliminated her position. During her Exit Interview the employee was told “When you joined us, you signed a PIIA agreement. So, it just means you cannot compete with Own and you cannot solicit Own employees.” The employee was not aware that she signed a noncompete agreement and went back through her records. The PIIA agreement referred to is a document titled: Employee Proprietary Information and Inventions Agreement. Buried within the agreement was language that read: For the period of twelve (12) months immediately following termination (for any or no reason, whether voluntary or involuntary), I will not directly or indirectly… act in Any Capacity in or with respect to any Competing Business located within the State of New Jersey, the rest of the United States, or anywhere else in the world. Thereafter, Own later refused to provide the employee with a list of its competitors, and further informed the employee that if she began working for a company that was not currently a competitor of Own, but later became a competitor during the 12-month period, that she would be in violation of the noncompete.

Attorney Jason Castle, of the Newark-based law office, The Castle Firm, LLC, represents the employee in her claims against Own. Castle commented: “Own is literally trying to ‘own’ their employees by tying them down to illegal noncompete clauses that the company hides within its secondary employment agreements. The audacity of Own to prohibit an employee from working in any capacity, for any competitor, anywhere in the world, is the exact type of abuse by employers that the FTC’s ban on noncompete agreements seeks to eliminate.”  Castle went on to say “Imagine having your job eliminated and then being told by the company that you can’t work for any competitor, in any capacity, anywhere in the world, for an entire year—Aside from the noncompete being a clear violation of Federal Antitrust statutes and New Jersey law, how is it possible for an employee to compete with a position that the company eliminated?--It just doesn’t make sense.”

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