Can I Solicit My Former Employer’s Customers in California?
Generally speaking, yes — former employees can compete and solicit a former employer’s customers. Often, employers will try to scare former employees into thinking otherwise. Worse, employers may threaten or bring a breach of contract lawsuit against the former employee for solicitation – often alleging the breach of a non-compete agreement.
In California, generally speaking, any contract that attempts to restrain someone from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is void. California maintains this policy to ensure that citizens shall retain the right to pursue any lawful employment and enterprise of their choice.
So, a former employee has the right to engage in a competitive business and to enter into competition with his former employer. The former employee may even solicit and do business with the customers of the former employer. Moreover, employees even have the right to announce their new business affiliation to the former employer’s customers (and even to trade secret clients of a former employer).
This is basic to an individual’s right to engage in fair competition. In the lawsuit context, it’s also a complete defense.