In recent years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to companies that apply non-compete and non-solicitation agreement terms to lower- and mid-level employees — sometimes in Draconian ways that have significantly impacted families and left workers with no choice but to move to other areas of the country or seek employment in entirely different fields.  Though isolated, these instances have led to a national debate over how companies can balance their business interests while still respecting employees’ rights to pursue career opportunities.

There are obvious reasons behind the use of non-compete and non-solicitation agreements: employers have a vested interest in safeguarding profitable client relationships. The departure of an employee who has played an integral role in the development or maintenance of those relationships represents a real risk that business will walk out the door along with the departing worker. However, the concerns of the employer must be balanced with those of the worker. Employees who are unhappy in their current work environment or who seek greater opportunity or better compensation must have the freedom to explore the other options available to them.

The conundrum represented by the interests of these two opposing sides requires careful consideration and a thoughtful approach to the crafting of any type of employment agreement. Employers can protect themselves, but those protections must be reasonable and not so all-encompassing as to effectively handcuff workers and prevent them from ever leaving.

The middle-ground that most companies and legal experts have come to has limited any restrictive language regarding working within a geographic area or industry to a limited window of time. Non-solicitation language can be more stringent; it is reasonable to impose more limitations on contacting existing customers, as well as on preventing departing employees from recruiting their colleagues to come along with them.

Employees who leave their employers may resent being told that they may not solicit clients that have significantly contributed to their success, but they must also respect the resources provided by their employer that contributed to the relationship. If it was their talent and skill that were most essential to their success, they would be able to use those abilities to great effect with new customers in a new position.

If you need assistance in crafting employment agreements that are fair and reasonable, or you need representation in an employment contract dispute, we can help. Contact us today to learn more.