Should Microsoft win its lawsuit against Google and Kai-Fu Lee, it seems Lee could find himself dangling from two sets of employer strings.
Google hired Lee away from Micrsoft in July, saying he would head the search giant's Chinese operations. Microsoft promptly sued, claiming Lee was violating a one-year noncompete clause in his contract by accepting the Google job.
A court document unsealed this week suggests that if Lee is barred from working at Google, he could enter a professional limbo constrained by both companies. The document, provided by Microsoft, apparently is part of an employment agreement between Google and Lee. It states that should Microsoft prevent Lee from working at both Microsoft and Google because of the noncompete clause, Google will place him on a paid leave of absence or consulting gig for up to a year. Google's pledge is subject to certain conditions, according to the document.
A paid, year-long leave of absence might seem like a nice arrangement. But should Lee want to do some actual work during the paid leave, he'd have to ask a Google boss first, according to the document.
"Kai-Fu Lee agrees that during any period he is being paid...he is not permitted to perform work, including but not limited to performing as an employee, consultant or advisor, for any company or business, without express written permission from a Vice President of Engineering or the Vice President of Human Resources at Google," the document states.
Should Lee be prevented from working at Google by Microsoft, and prevented from working anywhere else by Google, he conceivably would have another option: quit Google.