In Texas, absent a valid noncompete, an at-will employee is generally free to compete with the former employer so long as the employee does not take or use the company’s confidential information or trade secrets. Notwithstanding this general rule, employees also have common law fiduciary duties that limit what activities they can engage in prior to resigning employment.  The level of fiduciary duty owed to the company will depend on the duties and responsibilities of the employee and the position within the company.  Employees may generally make preparations to compete while still employed by a company but cannot actively compete while still employed.  What constitutes preparing to compete versus actively competing can often be a blurry line.  A recent case from the El Paso Court of Appeals helps to bring the line into focus.

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Several years ago I took the deposition of the business owner who hired several employees from a competitor in violation of a noncompetition agreement the employees had with the competitor.  As part of enforcing the agreements against the former employees, the competitor sued the new employer for tortious interference with contract because the new employer/business owner was aware of the noncompetition agreements and

Earlier this week the Dallas Court of Appeals rejected an employee’s attempt to create a new wrongful termination cause of action.  In Martin v. Clinical Pathology Lab., Joyce Martin sued her employer for terminating her employment after she requested time off to vote in the November 2008 General Election.  According to her petition, Martin