A former Newell Rubbermaid employee learned the hard way that it’s a good idea to read terms and conditions before clicking the “accept” button. Her failure to take the time to read that annoying text may cost her a new job.
The employee was the Director of Sales to Target Department Stores, in charge of the Graco baby product line. Because of her position, she had been eligible to receive stock options for the past three years. In that third year, she accepted the options online, by clicking “accept” in a box displaying the terms and conditions of the stock option grant. As I mentioned, the employee clicked “accept” without bothering to read the terms.
As a result of skipping past the terms, the employee didn’t realize that Newell Rubbermaid had added a non-compete provision. By accepting the terms, the employee agreed not to solicit Newell Rubbermaid customers if she left for a new job. And, as you may have guessed, the employee left her job in January and immediately took a similar job with Aritsana USA, selling the competing Chicco line of baby products. Newell Rubbermaid filed a lawsuit to enforce its non-compete.
The employee argued that she was not bound by the non-solicitation provision, because that term had not been part of the option agreement in the two previous years. She argued that Newell Rubbermaid should have flagged those new terms.
But her arguments fell on unsympathetic ears. The court found Newell Rubbermaid was not required to flag the new terms, and the bold text alerting her to existence of the terms and conditions generally, coupled with notice that she would be bound once she clicked “accept” was all the notice required. The court agreed the method was not “the model of transparency and openness” but it was, evidently good enough.
No doubt the employee found the ruling completely unacceptable.