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Pennsylvania Superior Court Upholds Non-Solicitation Agreement Despite Employees Change in Employment Status

The Pennsylvania Superior court upheld non-solicitation agreements between an employer and employees after their employment agreements expired and the employees continued to work at-will. Metalico Pittsburgh, Inc. v. Newman, 160 A.3d 205 (Pa. Sup. Ct. 2017). Appellees Douglas Newman and Ray Medred (“Employees”) were employed by scrap metal company Metalico Pittsburgh, Inc. (“Employer”) from 2011 to 2015. The Employees signed a three-year employment agreement that included a non-solicitation agreement in part barring employment with any known affiliates or suppliers of the employer. After the three-year period, the Employees remained at the company at-will with some modifications to their jobs compared to the employment agreements. The Employees stayed with the Employer for one year before leaving to work for a competitor, and the Employer filed suit against the Employees and their new employer. The lower court found in favor of the Employees by finding that there was a lack of consideration for the non-solicitation considering there were material changes to the terms of the employment agreements when the Employees started working at-will.

The Superior Court reversed and held that there was adequate consideration and thus enforced the non-solicitation agreements in favor of the Employer. Under Pennsylvania law, there is adequate consideration when a restrictive covenant, such as a non-solicitation agreement, is signed at the beginning of an employment contract. Although the Employees argued that the non-solicitation agreement had expired when they changed to at-will status, this Court found that the explicit terms of the agreements contradicted this assertion. The non-solicitation agreements applied for the full term of the employment, regardless of whether it was under the contract or at-will. Moreover, the contract specifically stated that the non-solicitation provisions survived termination of the contract. The agreements also stated that consideration for the agreements was fulfilled by the payment of compensation and benefits to the Employees. Ultimately, the Superior Court found that the lower court erred and that the non-solicitation agreements were in effect when the Employees resigned and that the agreements were supported by consideration even though the employment agreements had expired, and the Employees were at-will.

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