You Signed a Non-Compete. Can Your Employer Enforce It?
A non-compete agreement is a clause in your employment agreement that prohibits you from working for an employer in direct competition with your current employer. They may also prohibit you from revealing proprietary information to subsequent employers.
While non-compete agreements were originally supposed to stop employees from revealing proprietary information or taking business to a competitor, they often have the effect of severely hampering an employee’s ability to work in their field once they leave their current employer.
It’s easy to tell people to simply refuse to sign onerous non-compete agreements. However, that’s easier said than done. You may not get the job if you refuse to sign, and you may not even realize you’ve signed—as employers sometimes hide these clauses within stacks of papers to sign upon hiring.
So, let’s say you’ve already signed an onerous non-compete agreement. Can your employer enforce it? Not always. Enforcement varies by location and jurisdiction. But generally, courts won’t let your employer enforce that clause if it’s not deemed “reasonable.”
Is the Non-Compete Agreement Reasonable?
In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, non-compete agreements are heavily scrutinized, as both states have an interest in protecting employees’ rights to earn a living. However, that doesn’t mean the courts never enforce non-compete agreements.
Here are some questions the court may ask when deciding if your non-compete is reasonable to enforce:
- Is your employer genuinely protecting a legitimate interest, beyond simply wanting to prevent you from taking your skills and expertise to a competitor?
- Is the geographic scope and timeframe so broad that it will keep you from working in your field and area?
- Were you fired? If so, your employer may have a hard time proving they find your skills and knowledge so valuable they have to restrict your future employment.
- Is your employer offering to compensate you for agreeing to sign the non-compete?
- What is the nature of the work you are prohibited from doing under the agreement?
- Did your employer give you special training as part of your employment?
- Do you have knowledge of confidential information that could damage your employer if a competitor had that information?
- Is that knowledge unique to the employer or is it general expertise in the field?
- Does the employer really keep this information confidential?
Questions About Your Non-Compete? Ask an Employment Lawyer
If you’ve signed a non-compete agreement and you want to know what impact it will have on your future career—and your prospects after leaving your employer—you should ask a knowledgeable employment attorney.
Your attorney can help you assess the terms of the non-compete, determine how enforceable it is, and—if necessary—defend your interests in court. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at email@example.com for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.