Can You Fight Back Against a Non-Compete Contract?

At Teller Law, many employees or former employees ask me to review the enforceability of Non-Compete Agreements. I often find that these agreements, which provide that the employee or contractor will refrain from performing certain types of work for other businesses or future employers, are written to prevent the employee or contractor from earning a living in the future.

Non-compete agreements usually try to limit how soon a worker can resume doing the same type of job he or she did for the past employer, where they can work, and what types of jobs they can do for competitors.  These agreements are often much more favorable to the employer than to the employee.  Many non-competes have been found to be unenforceable because they are overly restrictive and therefore unfair.

Non-compete agreements are essentially anti-competitive.  They give employers an advantage over their competitors by artificially restricting the employment market, allowing them to lock employees into jobs that are no longer a good fit.  When an employer terminates an employee’s job, then tries to enforce a non-compete, the employee is left with few options for how to support him or herself.

Employees or contractors with questions about whether they should sign a non-compete agreement should pay careful attention to the details in the language. You are signing a contract that could seriously impact your economic future!

Details to look at carefully include the kind of limits the employer is seeking; whether the terms are different depending on whether the employee is fired or quits; and how likely it is that the employee would want to do similar work in the future for business competitors.  Depending on the type of work you do, it often makes sense to hire a lawyer to review your employer’s non-compete before you sign it.

Employees seeking relief from a non-compete agreement need to be very careful about how the separation from the employer is handled.  When looking at enforceability, a big question is always whether the employee acted fairly and honestly in performing his or her job, especially during the job separation.  I tell my clients to behave as if a judge were watching all their actions and reading all their text messages and emails.  Don’t do anything you would not want a judge to see you doing.  Always try to take the high road and keep your hands clean.  Negotiation, enforcement, and relief from non-compete agreements are complex legal issues that often cannot be resolved without experienced legal counsel.  If you have questions about a non-compete agreement, please call my office to schedule a free consultation with an experienced non-compete lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and options.

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