Almost everyone who has signed an employment agreement in the United States has most likely signed a noncompete agreement. They are agreements included in the contract that state that the employee will not work for a competitor of the employer in the event their employment is terminated for any reason. They usually include a geographical and a time requirement. For example, most such agreements restrict the employee from working for a competitor within five or ten miles of the employer for six months or a year after termination of employment.
Each state has their own laws governing employment contracts and noncompete agreements. California is the strictest and won’t uphold any noncompete agreements at all. Most courts will enforce noncompete agreements, as long as they protect only the employer’s “reasonable” business interests.
Courts recognize that employers have a legitimate business interest in their employees. They devote significant time and resources to training those employees, not to mention the trade secrets and clients those employees have access to. Noncompete agreements are a way for businesses to protect themselves from competitors who might try to poach employees, but courts will often refuse to enforce a noncompete agreement if the judge thinks it’s too restrictive. Continue reading