Violation of contractor agreement . . .

I was just granted my Q Clearance end of October (after a 12.5 month wait) AND I have an amazing opportunity to go from a subcontractor to a full-time employee of the DOE / NNSA Lab where I’ve been for the last 17 months. Of course I accepted the offer, gave my two weeks and my contractor manager, while sorry to see me go, wished me luck and congrats and all that.

Life’s good, right?

Then a week later, the head of the contractor’s HR writes a nasty-gram that I’ve violated an agreement I signed stating I would not work for the contractor’s client for a full 180 days upon resigning. Two other contractors for the same company who’d signed the same agreements made this same conversion in the last 14 months without this happening to them. It seems they want to make some kind of example out of me. I’ve been a good employee to them for 17 months, not a single write-up or incident, I even won an award from the Lab a couple months ago.

I looked at the page I’d signed and sure enough, in paragraph 3 or whatever of the fine print, it says this. I know it doesn’t help to say this, but there were a dozen forms at the time and no, I did not peruse every detail. The contracting company has no reason to do this except to bully and coerce me to stay with them which would mean less pay, less job security and way worse benefits. What I signed says they can get “injunctive relief” in the form of a court order prohibiting me from working for the Lab for 180 days – IF they actually decide to come get me. My Lab manager thinks they don’t have the legal authority to enforce this, especially in an at-will state like CA and are putting their HR and legal department on it. I wonder if they know how big a bridge they’re burning by doing this . . .

Which leads me to my question(s) … will this bite me down the road? Can the contractor officially complain to someone at OPM and get my clearance revoked? If I’m taken to court and lose will I lose my clearance? Say in 5 years during the re-investigation, an investigator calls the contractor and they say I’m a sleazebag who violates agreements?

Sigh … and it felt so good, feeling good again too.

These non-competes are USUALLY not enforceable. Once you get to the new job, no judge in the land is going to make them remove you from the payroll. I would suggest a brief discussion with an employment lawyer in your state.

A few lessons to be learned here:

  1. The agreement that you signed may have purposely been stuffed into a pile of other paperwork but you have to be vigilant. You likely would have signed it anyway but you need to be aware of what is going on around you.

  2. Non-competes are usually only enforceable if you have been privy to “inside” information or strategic discussions at your current employer AND this information will help your new employer or can be used to damage your old employer.

  3. Companies use these agreements to try to suppress turnover. They don’t usually go after employees when they leave but it is still smart to avoid telling your employer where you are going. They may find out after you start your new job but you in order to enforce the agreement at that point, they would have to get a judge to put you on the unemployment line. That isn’t likely to happen.

I’m sure there are more lessons but that’s all that I can think of right now.

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I would humbly work with the current HR staff and leadership. Demonstrate humility at your failure to remember the non compete. Bring up the other two as well. Likely, they got tired of losing employees tot he client and instead of raising pay…they tried poking you in the eye. The client may offer a mea culpa to the contract agency, and that may be the end of it. But I am not seeing any clearance issue. As Ed said a right to work state…you left their employment. So legally I see no ability to charge you with a violation of their rules…enforceable against employees. Now if the client poached you, approached you at work and wooed you to join the client…the contract officer can issue a “stop doing that” letter. But that means don’t get caught poaching in the future. The contract company is likely getting written up by the same client for failure to keep seats filled. They can’t keep seats filled because everyone leaves for the client. They can offer more pay to slow attrition…or keep losing top employees. Don’t lash out at the previous company…lay low and express discomfort to show you didn’t knowingly violate the order. If you had access to specific info from the company…don’t use that against them or their interests. That has caused problems for people departing.

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As for the non-compete clause, it depends. It depends on the governing state law. You should read your employment contract and it will specify the governing state law. Nonetheless,most employment contracts do not specify that. So, I will presume that your employment contract is silent on that part, and the contract was executed in the state of California. In that case, California Business and Professions Code (I forgot which section), effectively makes non-compete clause null and void. So, don’t mind the employer…

Will it affect your clearance, doubtful if any. Nonetheless, keep your records. I wouldnt worry too much about this.

I appreciate the great advice. EdFarmerIII is correct, even if I’d read the details of every form, I’d have signed anyway because it was a great opportunity. Which at least would have led to more due diligence in terms of how to handle things when the time came to leave. Point taken.

In my resignation letter, I did not state where I was going, but merely said it was for a ‘strategic career move.’ They made the assumption; it was a correct one, but a conjecture nonetheless.

I will take the advice of everyone here and breathe easier. Everyone is telling me the same thing, that especially in CA they won’t be able to enforce this; the contractor is based out of TN if that means anything. And as this is my first Q clearance (or any clearance for that matter), I’m a bit paranoid about anything that could go wrong.

If they actually take me to court and try something I’ll post again with the results of all that.

Thx again.

It sounds like they are simply angry. Until anything legal happens, I would simply let it work it’s course. By the time six months rolls around, they will have forgotten about it hopefully

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