Can you work for the competition?

By: Cédric P. Lamarche
The upcoming G20 has spurred much talk about the large sums of money that the Canadian government is spending on the event.  Reports indicate that the Harper government plans on spending almost 1-billion for the summit.
Securing Toronto’s downtown core during the short meeting “requires the largest deployment of security personnel for a major event in Canadian history.”  According to the RCMP, the deployment of police, military and private security personnel will cost an estimated $321 million.
Due to the sudden need for security personnel and the hefty amounts invested, many government subsidized security positions have become available.  These positions are very appealing for many who currently work in the private security industry and earn meager wages.  According to newspaper advertisements by a company awarded a federal government contract, security guards hired for the event will earn approximately $20-$24 per hour.  This represents about double the average hourly wage earned by security guards in Ontario.
Some private security firms have expressed concerns regarding the retention of their staff during the summit.  As mass hiring begins, many private security firms are concerned that the attractive salaries will result in a high attrition rate, which may lead to staff shortages.
As attractive as the highly paid work opportunities may appear, security personnel should be very careful before bailing on their current employers.  Employment contracts often contain restrictive covenants (such as non-competition clauses) limiting one’s activities while employed, or following the termination of employment.  The breach of an enforceable restrictive covenant may give rise to legal liability.
The simple fact that an employment contract contains a non-competition clause does not automatically mean that it is enforceable.  Canadian courts will scrutinize these types of clauses very carefully to determine whether or not they should apply.  Restrictive clauses will be enforced if the courts conclude that the restrictions are reasonable to protect the proprietary interests of an employer as well as the interests of an employee to pursue his/her skills and earn a livelihood in a free and open market.  The question is whether a restrictive covenant does more than what is necessary to protect legally recognized interests of employers.
Whether or not a restrictive covenant is enforceable will depend on the circumstances of every case.  Before crossing the street to work for the competition, employees are encouraged to be diligent and have their employment contracts reviewed by employment law experts.
Cédric Lamarche is an employment lawyer with Whitten & Lublin LLP, which is a team of legal experts who provide practical advice and advocacy for workplace issues.