You feel you’ve gotten as far as you can in your current job and you’re thinking about moving on. You noticed a job opening at a competing company and you think it could be a perfect fit. You also happen to know the hiring manager, so getting an interview would probably be as easy as making a phone call …

The problem is, you signed a non-compete agreement when you started your current job. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal. After all, you were just starting a new gig and the last thing on your mind was getting back out in the job market.

You’ve heard that non-competes are largely unenforceable. Should you take the chance and go for the new opportunity?

In any case, it’s a good idea to understand how non-competes work and how they’re viewed under the law.

Non-Competes: What They Are

Non-compete agreements, or restrictive covenants, may include a variety of terms and conditions. Many prohibit employees from working for competitors for a given length of time after their employment is terminated, whether they leave voluntarily or involuntarily.

Some restrictive covenants may include language barring employees from disclosing trade secrets or confidential information, soliciting the clients of the former employer, or attempting to woo coworkers to new jobs at other companies.

Non-compete agreements are most often contained within employment contracts, although they may also be separate documents.

Are They Enforceable?

Enforceability of non-competes varies by state. In Pennsylvania, restrictive covenants are generally enforceable under certain circumstances. However, agreements that are overly broad may be thrown out.

So what makes a non-compete “overly broad?” Pennsylvania courts generally frown upon any provisions that would unreasonably restrict an employee’s ability to find gainful employment in his or her field after termination. That means that PA courts are likely to go over any restrictive covenants with a very critical eye.

Courts usually consider three criteria when determining if a non-compete is overly broad:

Whether the agreement is necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate business interests, rather than simply restricting the worker’s ability to find another job

Whether the agreement is in force for a reasonable, limited amount of time

Whether the agreement pertains to a limited geographic area, such as a certain number of miles from the employer’s location

Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation

Of course, the enforceability of non-competes can be highly complex dependent on your particular agreement and employment status.

If you have a legal issue related to a non-compete, email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.