Matthews, Bischoff and Horn.
[153 NJSuper Page 39] Defendant Bergen Brunswig Corporation appeals, pursuant to leave granted, from a summary judgment permanently enjoining the enforcement of a post-employment
restrictive covenant against solicitation of customers executed by plaintiff Peter Hogan, a former employee. Plaintiff was employed by defendant for 27 years in its Allied Churgin and Sadkin Laboratories Dental Division (Allied) as a salesman. His territory consisted primarily of Essex and Union Counties and the accounts serviced by him represented annual sales of more than $800,000, or almost 25% of Allied's gross sales.
On October 25, 1973 defendant circulated to all of its employees a policy statement covering "the subjects of conflicts of interest, gifts, gratuities, confidential information, trade secrets and inventions." Employees were requested to sign and return a letter of acknowledgment. Included in the policy statement was the following:
The Company has developed and continues to develop and use commercially valuable proprietary technical and nontechnical information which is vital to the success of the Company's business. Employees are employed by the Company in a capacity in which they may become acquainted with such information and may in fact contribute thereto either by inventions, discoveries, designs, improvements or otherwise. In order to guard the legitimate interest of the Company, it is necessary for the Company to protect certain of the information either by patents or by holding such information secret or confidential.
Therefore, in consideration of and as part of the terms of employment of the Employee by the Company, it is the Company's policy to require each of its employees to comply with the following policies:
For a period of twelve months following the termination of an Employee's employment with the Company, he shall not directly or indirectly solicit any customer of the Company for whom he performed services while employed by the Company or which he solicited on behalf of the Company.
A letter acknowledging receipt of the statement and the understanding "that the obligations which arise thereunder shall continue after the expiration of [his] employment with the Company" was signed by plaintiff on May 9, 1974.
Plaintiff was discharged February 11, 1977 and, on June 14, 1977, filed a verified complaint in which he sought, among other things,
(1) a judgment declaring the policy statement void and unenforceable;
(2) an injunction against any further action by defendant predicated upon the ...