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Reinhardt Printing Co. v. Feld

OPINION FILED JANUARY 31, 1986.

REINHARDT PRINTING COMPANY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

SHARON SERLIN FELD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur Dunne, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied March 31, 1986.

Defendant brings this interlocutory appeal from the issuance of a preliminary injunction restraining her from violating certain post-employment non-competition and nondisclosure covenants contained in an employment agreement with plaintiff, Reinhardt Printing Company.

The record discloses that plaintiff is a small commercial printing company doing business primarily in the downtown area of Chicago. On March 7, 1983, defendant and Jack Reinhardt, then-president of plaintiff, signed a written "memorandum of agreement" which provided:

"In consideration of my employment by [plaintiff] and the continuance of such employment by [plaintiff], and the payment of my compensation as its employee and of entrusting to me by [plaintiff] of confidential information relative to the manufacture of printing and to its customers, I agree with [plaintiff] as follows:

(1) I agree that I will not divulge to others any information I may obtain during the course of my employment relating to the products, customers, prospective customers, sales information, trade secrets ideas, etc. of [plaintiff], whether contributed by me or not, without first obtaining written permission of [plaintiff] to do so.

(2) I further agree that all records of every nature and description which come into my possession during my employment with [plaintiff] whether prepared by me or otherwise, are and remain the property of [plaintiff], and upon termination of my employment with [plaintiff], said records shall be left with [plaintiff] as part of its property.

(3) I further agree that upon termination of employment I shall not, for a period of one (1) year, either directly or indirectly:

(a) Sell or attempt to sell printing to any firm to which I sold or solicited printing while in the employ of [plaintiff].

(b) Induce or attempt to induce any of the Company's customers not to do business with the Company.

(c) Induce or attempt to induce any of the Company's employees to terminate their relationship with the Company."

Defendant voluntarily terminated her employment with plaintiff on Friday, May 31, 1985, and began working as a salesperson for Anchor Graphics, another commercial printing company, also in downtown Chicago, the following Monday — June 3. On June 4, plaintiff filed its complaint and motion for injunctive relief.

At the hearing thereon, James Reinhardt — Jack Reinhardt's son and plaintiff's current president — testified that defendant's initial contact with plaintiff was through Doug Wyman, an outside hiring consultant it had retained, for a fee of $3,000, to interview and screen applicants for the sales position it had advertised and to thereafter provide sales training to the person eventually hired. When interviewed, defendant stated that she had no experience in commercial printing sales but had been working as a salesperson for a wholesale envelope supplier and indicated that she could procure as customers various firms to which she sold envelopes; however, except for one publishing company, she did not do so. She was given a copy of the employment agreement the day before she was hired so that she could look it over and show it to an attorney if she wished. She expressed no objections to its terms at either the time she signed it or any time thereafter. Upon being hired, defendant underwent a training program which included two days "in the field" with Wyman — at an additional cost of $600 — making random sales calls on downtown businesses, two of which resulted in orders, and two weeks "in-house" training which consisted of visiting plaintiff's various departments to view and learn all aspects of its business including production processes and sales techniques. Plaintiff also paid defendant's trade association dues and reimbursed her 50% of the costs of two courses she took at the Printing Industry Institute.

Reinhardt further testified that although defendant was hired only to procure new accounts, some "house accounts" normally handled by him or his father were eventually turned over to her. He identified 25 of 76 firms on a list prepared by defendant as either such "house accounts" or were customers which she was given company assistance in finding and/or developing. Throughout her employment, defendant had access to confidential information relating to specific customer identities and production methods as well as the raw data on costs and profit margins used in estimating price quotations, all of which was confidential information accumulated by plaintiff over a long period of time. When she submitted her termination notice on Tuesday, May 28, 1985, to be effective Friday, May 31, 1985, she acknowledged having signed the employment agreement at issue, but was "vague" in her response to his inquiry ...


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