Employment disputes of different varieties occur often in the world of business. One type of conflict that is common, both in North Carolina and nationwide, is when a company recruits an employee away from one of its competitors. That occurred recently when a powerhouse newspaper in the northeast reportedly recruited an editor-in-chief away from a southwestern periodical. The periodical has prepared and filed a business litigation complaint against the newspaper alleging interference with contractual relations.
In this case, the successful editor was allegedly wooed by editors and others associated with the defendant newspaper, which needs an editor for its weekly news magazine. The announcement that this star editor would be joining the other publication was heralded with acclaim by news industry commentators. Since then, reports of impending business litigation based on the transaction has clouded the initial positive publicity.
There are unconfirmed reports that The New York Times was supposed to compensate the Emmis Publishing Company, owner of the Texas Monthly, the magazine that the solicited editor captained. If any of that talk is true, such negotiations obviously collapsed, raising the likely prospects of court action. When a company tries to interfere substantially with the ongoing contractual relationship of the plaintiff, a lawsuit can be filed based on the tort of interference with contract or interference with contractual relations.
This is not a breach of contract action. The breach of contract would have been between the Texas monthly and its editor. Emmis Publishing announced that it would not sue the editor for breach of contract but was going exclusively against The New York Times and its employees.
The gist of the dispute is Emmis’ contention that The New York Times agreed to negotiate reparations for the loss of the company’s editor and the cost of finding his replacement. When the announcement was made prior to negotiations, Emmis reportedly contacted the newspaper but was rebuffed. Whether in North Carolina or elsewhere, damages will apply when a company interferes with an ongoing contractual relationship. Emmis is now apparently acting on the perception that the business litigation will at least compel the newspaper to come to the negotiating table in due course.
Source: capitalnewyork.com, “Texas Monthly owner: We aren’t suing Jake Silverstein“, Joe Pompeo, April 12, 2014