Like how to sign up a company on the verge of bankruptcy and fail to immediately refund customers when they go belly up? That sort of "secret"?
Soon-to-go-public online voucher site Groupon has thrown sueballs at two former workers of the company, over claims that the ex-sales managers had taken trade secrets to their new employer Google. In a lawsuit filed with Cook Country, Illinois, Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago), Groupon is seeking an injunction …
If there isn't one in the contract then, oh dear.
Waiting the GroupOn Fail Whale to open the season whilst at the same time worrying about the possible deals banks and insurance companies have got going on something that at least at some point promised to be a nice little earner.
They're not valid in California (for example) but are valid in some other states, such as Illinois.
Even when they are valid there are normally restrictions on them that prevent them from being used to prevent a person earning a living and so on.
I'd expect that Groupon will argue that they can sell other things instead.
You have two issues.
'Right to Work' States where the employee has the right to work and utilize his skills.
This is being weighed against a company's right to protect their proprietary trade secrets.
Here's an example. Suppose you're a Java developer for Company A. You quit to go work for Company B as a Java Developer. Company B is a competitor. You have a non-compete contract that prohibits you from working for a set of specific companies for a period of time.
Unless Company B is specifically listed, you can work for them.
If Company B is listed, you may have to wait for your lockout time. (Which you were compensated for when you signed your non-compete contract) The reason this is legal is that your skill can also be applied at another company, lets call it Company C where you can also work as a Java Developer.
Now the higher up the food chain in an organization, the more proprietary knowledge you learn and the smaller the list of companies where you can go to work.
This is where it gets difficult to say what will happen. The courts have to balance your right to work against those of the company. So its possible that you can go to work for Company B where you are not in a position to advise or work in direct competition against Company A.
There's a lot of case history in Chicago.
It all depends on what was in the agreement and if its enforceable.
When Informix got borg'd by IBM, some employees got a retention package. In the agreement, there were two clauses. One said you couldn't go to work for any company that did business w IBM. (This clause is unenforceable.) The second clause specifically barred one from going to work at two named competitors. (This clause was enforceable.)