If you signed a non-compete agreement with a previous employer and are now seeking a new job in the same industry which violates the agreement, you may wonder if there is anything you can do.
A non-compete agreement or restrictive covenant agreement is intended to protect an employer from a former employee working for a competitor, starting a similar business, or drawing on the same customers for a period of time in a certain geographic area.
A non-compete agreement must be reasonable, however. It cannot indefinitely prevent a previous employer from seeking employment or working in a certain geographic area. In fact, most non-competes are enforceable for no more than two years and only limit an employee to working outside a certain mileage of a previous employer or previous territory. If a non-competition agreement clause is unreasonable, a court may declare the noncompetition agreement unenforceable.
Now, if you have found employment, but are bound by a non-competition agreement, it is important to have your attorney review your non-competition agreement to ensure it passes the “reasonable” test. If not, you may work with your previous employer to modify the agreement or take the matter to court. If the original non-compete agreement is sound, it is possible to negotiate with a previous employer so that you can accept new employment or just run out the clock on the non-compete as is before accepting new employment or starting a similar business of your own.
It is definitely NOT in your best interests to ignore a non-competition agreement – reasonable or unreasonable – even if you know of other previous employees who have slipped through the cracks or an employer simply chose not to enforce it in the past – there’s always a first time. If you violate a non-competition agreement, a previous employer can, and likely will, sue to protect their business.
When you have questions regarding non-competition agreements, contact the employment law attorneys of McDonald, Woodward & Carlson, P.C. for immediate assistance at 563-355-6478.