Groupon Sues Ex-Employees

In a strange turn of events, Groupon takes itself out of the defendant’s chair and goes after two former employees who joined Google, claiming that they took protected information to their new jobs.

Michael Nolan, who worked for Groupon for two years, and Brian Hanna, who joined the Chicago-based company in January, each left last month to join Google Offers, according to a civil complaint filed yesterday in an Illinois court. Google, based in Mountain View, California, isn’t named in the suit.

“In their new positions with Google Offers and/or Google, Hanna and Nolan will provide the same or similar services as they provided at Groupon,” requiring them “to employ confidential and proprietary information that they learned while employed at Groupon,” according to the complaint.

This is definitely interesting since Google tried to buy Groupon not too long ago and goes into a much larger discussion about non-competes, particularly when an employee’s experience which allows them to move on their career violates an NDA/NC agreement. California has already made non-competes irrelevant and it makes sense.

There is a need for the non-disclosure aspect of the agreement, however the non-competition aspect can make it really difficult for a person to find work, as many companies require experience within the same field for similar positions, particularly when traditional companies are trying to catch up with newer companies in their offerings and technology.

This case is garnering a great deal of attention because Groupon and Google are both big dogs in this fight, but these are the kind of situations that set precedents.

Companies really need to look at their agreements to make sure that they are able to protect their trade secrets and retain their best employees. In the same breath they should also make sure that the agreement doesn’t hinder the future of these employees, particularly in these days of massive layoffs and RIF’s.

For once, California got it right.