I want you back: losing your star performer

When the producer of a Blackpool tribute show to music greats sought an injunction to stop a Michael Jackson tribute act from working for a Blackpool competitor, could the King of Pop beat it?

 

Legends, Kings and Queens

Welcome to Blackpool: home of Legends, the smash-hit, multi-tribute show wowing audiences with talents from Freddie Mercury to Lady Gaga, David Bowie to Tina Turner and many more musical megastars.

In the glitzy Blackpool music scene, competition runs high.   At arch rival Kings and Queen, Elvis most certainly has not left the building and (like stepping back into 1983) Michael Jackson moonwalks from beyond the grave.

But Michael (better known as award winning tribute performer, Craig Harrison) started something when he left Legends to join Kings for the 2016 season.  His Legends contract contained a restriction on participating in any other multi-tribute show in Blackpool for 12 months from October 2015. 

Kings announced its new show prompting a demand letter from Legends, in March 2016, requiring compliance with the restriction.  Legends eventually started court action against Mr Harrison claiming an injunction two months later.

 

Post-termination restrictions

In the equally glamorous world of employment law, employers commonly impose restrictions on employees’ post-termination activities (particularly on senior staff) aimed at restricting:

  • Competition
  • Use of confidential information
  • Soliciting busine ss from customers
  • Poaching staff

To be enforceable, restrictions must (very briefly):

  • Protect a legitimate business interest
  • Not go beyond what is reasonably necessary to protect that interest (which usually involves consideration of factors including the nature and suitability of the restriction, its geographical ambit and its duration)

 

Timing is everything

The court found [Legends Live Ltd v Harrison (2016)] that the clause was enforceable: it had invested time and money producing the defendant as part of its show, a legitimate interest it could protect and it did not stop Michael from strutting his stuff outside of Blackpool. 

However, in exercising its discretion whether to grant an injunction, the court can weigh up whether action is taken sufficiently promptly.  The two month delay in commencing court action proved fatal; the only inference was that Legends sought the injunction in the middle of the summer season as a weapon to disrupt its competitor.  An injunction timed to injure others could be refused.

 

Comment

Where evidence is discovered that a former employee is acting in breach of restrictions and poses a threat to your business, swift action is required to investigate the circumstances and, if necessary, commence court proceedings aimed at minimising harm.

You can read more on managing suspicions an employee is preparing to compete here: [link to Competing Employees focus]