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Tortious Interference & Employment Contracts

Tortious Interference & Employment Contracts

I. Tortious Interference with Contract 

Tortious interference may occur in a few different contexts, but most commonly they are done in either interference with contract, meaning already existing business relations, prospective business relations, or existing economic relations. In New York, the standard test for finding if a defendant has committed tortious interference with contract is: “(1) the existence of a valid contract between plaintiff and a third party; (2) the defendant's knowledge of that contract; (3) the defendant's intentional procuring of the breach, and (4) damages.”1 

While tortious interference with contract is commonly used in the employment law context, they generally only apply when employees have guaranteed contracts subject to only being terminated for cause.2 If there are any relevant restrictive covenants which prevent such jumping from employer to employer, then it may possible to bring forward a claim for tortious interference with contract. 

Generally, when an employee's employment contract provides for at-will employment, the employee cannot file a claim for tortious interference with the contract.3 Additionally, the Court in Pezhman v. Chanel, Inc. expressly found that, “There can be no tortious interference [with contract] with prospective at-will employment.”4 In that case, even if one were to show that there was an offer for at-will employment made by management, such contract cannot be subject to a claim of tortious interference with contract.5 So long as there is no restrictive covenant restricting the employees ability to work for another employer, and that is valid and can be effectively enforced, a claim for tortious interference with contract cannot be applied to at-will employment contracts, whether verbal or written.6 

II. Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Relations 

While an employee still may not bring a claim for tortious interference with contract where his at-will employment contract has been interfered with, an employee may be able to bring a claim for tortious interference with prospective contractual relations.7 This can be done if the claim meets the following elements: “(1) the plaintiff had business relations with a third party; (2) the defendant interfered with those business relations; (3) the defendant acted with the sole purpose of harming the plaintiff or by using unlawful means; and (4) there was resulting injury to the business relationship.”8 

In Snyder v. Sony Music Ent., Inc, the “plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's interference with its prospective business relations was accomplished by ‘wrongful means’ or that defendant acted for the sole purpose of harming the plaintiff.”9 The Court also found that wrongful means “includes physical violence, fraud, misrepresentation, civil suits, criminal prosecutions and some degree of economic pressure, but more than simple persuasion is required.”10 One such possible way to show tortious interference with economic relations would be some sort of slander or libel. If a party commits the tort of slander or libel which has a direct impact on one’s employment, then such action may be able to be brought before the court. 

For help navigating restrictive covenants and drafting employment agreements, contact KI Legal’s knowledgeable labor & employment attorneys by calling (212) 404-8644 or emailing We are here to help protect your business and interests.  

[1] Foster v. Churchill, 87 N.Y.2d 744, 749–50, 665 N.E.2d 153, 156 (1996). 

[2] Teena-Ann V. Sankoorikal, 2022 in New York Business Litigation 437–468 (2022). 

[3] Id. 

[4] Pezhman v. Chanel, Inc., 126 A.D.3d 497, 2 N.Y.S.3d 792 (2015). 

[5] See id. 

[6] Sankoorikal, 2022. 

[7] Id. 

[8] N. State Autobahn, Inc. v. Progressive Ins. Grp. Co., 102 A.D.3d 5, 21, 953 N.Y.S.2d 96, 108 (2012); Thome v. Alexander & Louisa Calder Found., 70 A.D.3d 88, 108, 890 N.Y.S.2d 16; citing Carvel Corp. v. Noonan, 3 N.Y.3d 182, 189–190, 785 N.Y.S.2d 359, 818 N.E.2d 1100). 

[9] Snyder v. Sony Music Ent., Inc., 252 A.D.2d 294, 299–300, 684 N.Y.S.2d 235, 239 (1999). 

[10] Id. 



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