In New York, all employees owe a common law duty of loyalty to their employers, even if the employment is at-will and the employee has no employment agreement. The duty of loyalty requires employees to exercise the utmost good faith and loyalty in the performance of their duties and prohibits employees from acting in any manner that violates the trust an employer places in its employees. An employee who breaches the duty of loyalty to an employer can be liable under what is known as the “faithless servant” doctrine. If an employee is found liable under the faithless servant doctrine, an employer is able to recoup, among other things, all compensation paid to that employee during the period of disloyalty to the company.
In a recent case that exemplified the faithless servant doctrine, CMM successfully represented its client, a family-owned Long Island business, that had a long-tenured employee of nearly 20 years who, unbeknownst to the client, was operating a competing business in secret for nearly five years. When the scheme was ultimately discovered, the employee was promptly terminated. During the period of disloyalty, the former employee stole the company’s customers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual business, used the company’s suppliers and vendors for his competing business, and deceived the owners of the company who had known him for nearly two decades, all while collecting a regular paycheck from the company.
Shortly after the employee’s termination, CMM commenced a lawsuit against the former employee and his competing business, alleging claims for breach of the duty of loyalty (faithless servant) and other related claims. CMM’s Jeffrey Basso was able to strategically litigate the case to obtain necessary discovery to learn the extent of the damage caused by the former employee and position the case for mediation. At mediation, CMM was able to obtain a significant monetary settlement for the client, bringing this nightmarish saga for the client to a satisfying end.
To learn more about our litigation practice and whether alternative dispute resolution is the right path for your business, please contact us.