Kohlís seeks to stop top executive from sharing confidential info
Non-compete agreement attorney shares advice on topic

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

August 3, 2015

WAUKESHA -Kohlís Corp. filed a temporary restraining order against its chief information officer last week after learning she took a similar role for Hudsonís Bay Co., the parent company of Saks Fifth Avenue; however, the employee agreed to a stipulation and order to prevent a hearing regarding the TRO.

According to the temporary restraining order documents filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court on July 24, CIO Janet Schalk was a member of Kohlís Executive Committee and co-leader of its Information Technology steering committee. In those roles, Kohlís contends that Schalk had access to ďKohlís most confidential and proprietary information including information about strategic plans and business initiatives, as well as direct responsibility for Kohlís information technology security initiatives.Ē

Kohlís reported that Schalk signed an agreement that restricted the positions she could hold for direct competitors of Kohlís for one year if she left the company.

Previously, Judge James Kieffer granted a temporary injunction enforcing the same noncompete clause, and in exchange for signing the agreement, Kohlís says Schalk received a compensation package worth more than $1 million. As part of her compensation agreement with Kohlís, Schalk will also receive more than $270,000 from the company during the one-year period following her resignation, which was supposed to be effective Friday.

According to a stipulation and order filed July 28 and signed by attorneys representing both sides, Schalk will not provide restricted services under the agreement, including not serving as the role of chief information officer to Hudsonís Bay Co. or any other competitive business.

Attorney Saul Glazer, representing Schalk, said he had no comment on the case Friday. John Kirtley, the attorney representing Kohlís, did not return calls for comment.

A hearing has been scheduled for 10:45 a.m. Sept. 6.

Attorney Robert Corris with Corris Law has represented clients in southeastern Wisconsin for more than 25 years in matters of noncompete agreements, trade secrets, dealerships and franchises, fiduciary duties, business contracts and a wide variety of other business law issues.

He is not representing either party in the Kohlís case but in a general sense and not specific to that matter said he has observed more temporary restraining orders being filed recently in terms of alleged violations of noncompete clauses, but they are still not very common. Typically the process is to file a motion for temporary injunction along with a lawsuit. The injunction is meant to say that the plaintiff canít wait for the end of the case to stop the person from doing what the company thinks is wrong. A hearing is requested to prohibit the person from violating the agreement. A lot of the times when the injunction hearing is held, it will work to resolve the case because the judge will tell the lawyers which party is likely to win, Corris said.

A TRO is filed by an employer when it feels the company is facing harm immediately, Corris said, and is in effect until a decision is made on the injunction. There are two reasons employers may ask for an  injunction, such as to protect the companyís customers or confidential information.

One way for an employee to argue that the noncompete agreement does not apply to their situation is by saying itís too broad and is not enforceable, Corris said.

He recommends seeking advice before accepting another job. 

ďItís always better to get some advice ahead of time than to be getting the advice after you get sued,Ē Corris said.