Poaching of staff and business disruption

A company saw several its employees go to a competitor company. Among the defectors, four members of the Research and Development department, as well as the Commercial Director and his Deputy.

In its ruling the Court of Appeal found that the competitor was guilty of wrongful misappropriation of staff, justifying the decision by the fact that these departures, although taking place in the context of organisational difficulties, concerned highly-qualified employees, and that these departures were bound to affect the operation of the business.

The Court of Cassation was critical of this argument, criticising the Court of Appeal for not having researched the real impact and demonstrating genuine disruption, in any concrete way.

For the Court of Cassation, the wrongful misappropriation of staff is defined in regard to its consequences, and not the conditions in which it took place, the principle of freedom of work taking precedence (Cass.Com., 19 Oct 1999 – 25 Jan 2000).

Starting from the principle that poaching of staff systematically involves disturbance, real and quantifiable disruption has to be demonstrated in order to establish wrongful misappropriation.

Ch.Com. Cour de Cass. 20 Septembre 2011

Source :Cabinet Legis / Groupe Indicia – Détective Marseille

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