As an employee, you may get handed a non-competition agreement as part of your employment contract or as a component of a severance agreement after an employer lets you go. Non-competition agreements are common, and employees regularly overstep their bounds in the terms they place in these agreements. The reality of the matter is that just because an employer places certain terms in a non-competition agreement doesn’t mean that the terms are actually legally sound or even enforceable.
The two primary areas that employers tend to exaggerate their influence is in the scope and duration of a non-competition agreement. The scope of the agreement must reflect a reasonable consideration of an employee’s right to find work. For instance, a non-competition agreement might attempt to bar an employee from working in the same field within an entire state for several years, but that may not be a reasonable expression of non-competition. If the employer has a very geographically dependant business, like a local chain of car washes, an entire state may be too broad of a scope to enforce.
Similarly, if the agreement attempts to keep the employee from working in the same or similar field for too long after leaving the employer, the agreement may not stand up in court. An agreement may, for instance, stipulate that an employee may not work for a competitor in a similar capacity for up to five years when the industry standard is actually two years or even 18 months.
If you believe that your employer is leaning on you to accept unfair non-competition terms, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney. Your career and livelihood should not suffer because of an unfair, lopsided contract an employer had no business handing you in the first place.
Source: Findlaw, “Non-Competition Agreements: Overview,” accessed Aug. 11, 2017