Half a million fine for man who switched to a competitor

In relation to his gross monthly salary of 3,800 euros, the fine is extremely high, but according to the court it was justified because the man seriously exceeded the target. This appears from a decision by the district court in Amsterdam, which was published on Friday.

Trading companies

The man has worked since 2017 at the Leiden trading company West Coast Supply, which was formed two years earlier after the Amsterdam trading company Van Caem Klerks Group (VCKG) was split. Both companies mainly deal in beverages, perfumes and personal care.

VCKG is owned by Quote500 entrepreneur Michiel Kuijlaars, West Coast is separated from his former business partner Robert Juffermans.

Contact

In the summer of 2020, the trader in question switched from West Coast to Van Caem after colleagues had already gone ahead. When his old employer accidentally received messages indicating the man was approaching old business associates for the competitor, West Coast launched an investigation.

This showed that the man had actually become active for the competitor using business information from his former employer. West Coast then first took Van Caem to court to seek a recruitment ban. Last year the court in Amsterdam ordered this.

Competition clause

But West Coast Supplies was not satisfied. The trader himself also appears to have been tried by the Leiden trading company. According to his former employer, the man was guilty of breaching his non-competition, relationship and non-disclosure clause from his employment contract.

According to that contract, the man was to owe the maximum amount of one million euros in fines, according to West Coast Supplies.

defense

The trader admitted to the district court in Amsterdam that he had switched to the competitor and had used sensitive company information from his former employer. In addition, however, he presented a laundry list of arguments for not having to pay the fines.

For example, the provisions of the employment contract would have been incomprehensible and far too strict. In addition, due to the previous transfer of colleagues, he would have assumed that he could also work for the competitor.

Harassment

He also pointed out that he had only worked for the competitor for 2.5 months, which limited the damage to his former employer. The man now works for a completely different type of company.

He also stated that his former employer was itself to blame for his departure because he would have been subjected to ‘harassment, name-calling and intimidation’. Finally, he says that he has become a “toy” in a longer and larger conflict between the two owners of the trading companies.

Too hard

The High Court in Amsterdam considers that some of the conditions in his employment contract are indeed too strict. For example, the judge reduced the terms of the non-compete clause and the non-solicitation clause from three to one year.

The judge was not impressed by the rest of the defense. According to the judge, the man was indeed guilty of violating his non-compete, relationship and non-disclosure agreement.

Half a million euros

Because his employment contract uses a maximum of one million euros and the judge moderated the fines, the trader must pay his former employer half a million euros in fines.

The trader’s objection that the moderate fine is far too high in relation to his income was dismissed. The High Court considers the violations to be so serious that the high fine is appropriate. It also plays a role that the man continued to work for the competitor for a while, even after the discovery of his change, under a pseudonym and independent construction.

Very sad

“These offenses are very serious and highly culpable because the employee was aware that his actions were unacceptable,” the High Court judge said.

The High Court also points out that Van Caem has promised to pay the fines for the man. If the company lives up to that promise, the employee can still escape unscathed.

The employee himself states that he will refrain from commenting. “The situation has already had a big impact on me,” he tells RTL Z. “I like to stay away from this discussion.” Spokesman Dewi Kuipers says West Coast Supply will not respond to questions about the case.

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