A non-compete agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee restricting the employee from working in competition with the employer during or after employment based off industry, time, and regional restrictions. They have become more common so employers can avoid competition and replication of proprietary services or information.
Much like a jealous partner in a relationship, they basically say you can't date anyone else at the same college for a certain amount of time. While this may seem ridiculous, companies do have some authentic reasons for using non-compete agreements. Knowledge is power and employees who have learned the inner workings of a company can take that knowledge into their own hands to work for competition or create competition. Having said that, non-compete agreements feel more restrictive for the sake of being petty about an employee leaving.
According to legal representation at Tallahassee Law Firm Friedman & Abrahamsen, there are several factors that render non-compete agreements null and void:
- The employer breached the agreement by failing to provide certain compensation, benefits, or employment conditions.
- The employer engaged in conduct that violates specific laws.
- The restriction is not necessary to protect the employer's interest or that the scope of the agreement is unreasonable.
If you feel that one of these factors applies to you, find legal counsel. They can help you fairly overcome the non-compete agreement.
Basically, if an agreement is broken by the employer, the obligations are no longer accountable. There are complications in this process and evidence needs to be provided, which can be challenging, but if they didn't meet the agreed upon terms, then you are free from the non-compete agreement.
If the employer engages in any illegal or illicit activity, as a company (theft) or on a personal basis (sexual misconduct), contracts are going to be in question. Sometimes, an employee may know and need to blow the whistle on an employer's illegal actions, especially if they are being held to a non-compete agreement. When they are in trouble, they don't get to call an employee's future shots.
If a company is enforcing a non-compete when there is clear evidence that the restriction does not protect them and, instead, hinders the worker, competent legal counsel can help. Non-compete is becoming a standard part of the hiring process, but those that don't work with sensitive, proprietary information aren't a risk to the employer. So if they decide to work somewhere else in the same industry and region, are they really giving away company secrets to competition? Or did they find a better opportunity and have no interest in private industry espionage. Not everyone is within an employer's non-compete agreement scope and we should know if we are.
It's important to remember: despite paperwork signed and agreements made, large companies can and will protect themselves. You may not have signed a non-compete, but if they think you are leaving and taking secrets to another company with you, legal representation will contact you in their name. Non-compete agreements are a protective layer that might not be pursued – it simply gives the option and warning to pursue. So next time you sign an employment contract, find a lawyer and see what you may be facing in the future.