Trainee accountant breached restraint-of-trade clause
The Victorian Court of Appeal has unanimously ordered a trainee accountant to pay $188,495 plus interest and costs to his former employer after finding his decision to work for one of its clients breached a restraint-of-trade clause in his employment contract.
The trainee accountant, Mr Money, worked with accountancy firm Bird Cameron Pty Ltd for 6 years from early 2003. His employment contract featured a restraint-of-trade clause restricting him, for a period of 3 years after cessation of employment with the firm, from working for Bird Cameron clients for whom he had provided services and has established a relationship during his employment at the firm.
Mr Money argued that the restraint clause applied only where services had been provided to a client of Bird Cameron by a professional chartered accountant or tax agent. Otherwise, it was said, every employee of Bird Cameron "right down to the receptionists" would be exposed to an argument that they had provided relevant "services" to a Bird Cameron client during their period of employment with Bird Cameron, placing them at risk of a future breach of the clause. The Court of Appeal said this submission "must be rejected".
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