Increasingly, employees are being asked to sign non-compete agreements, and the question of whether or not they should is a tough one to answer. Where these contracts were once used to keep executives or those in sensitive positions from leaving and going to a competitor, that practice has transformed to the point where even low-level, low-wage workers are being required to sign them – and companies are being accused of attempting to unfairly stifle their ability to make a living at all once they leave their workplace.
Non-compete agreements are restrictive: they keep you from working in a similar industry for a specific period of time, or within a geographical area, or going to a competitor for whom your knowledge of company secrets could represent a threat to your original employer. In those circumstances, courts expect the specifics of the agreement too be reasonable. But when they are overly broad and are used as a way to keep employees on staff, it is unlikely that a court will uphold its terms – but that doesn’t make them any less intimidating, or provide employees presented with such an agreement with an answer to what they should do.
If you are presented with a non-compete agreement, your first step should be to ask questions. You want to know what the terms are and what you are being provided in exchange for signing. If you are uncertain as to whether signing is in your best interest, it’s a good idea to ask for a copy of the agreement and ask for time to sign it, and then have it reviewed by an employment attorney who can provide you with good legal advice.
Many employees are put in the uncomfortable position of being required to sign a non-compete agreement without the time or resources to have it reviewed and with a fear of having a job offer withdrawn. But don’t worry too much, non-compete agreements that are written with terms that are unreasonable or that prevent an individual from being able to support themselves or their families are unpopular with judges, and likely to be struck down in court should an employer choose to pursue action against a departing employee.
If you have the opportunity to have the terms of a non-compete agreement reviewed, contact our firm today. We will provide you with the guidance you need to protect your rights and assure that the contract terms are reasonable.