A non-compete agreement can create significant hardships for you if you must leave your present employer. The terms of your non-compete can impact your next career move, whether you continue to work in your chosen industry or not, and they may compel you to move to a new location.
As prudent as non-compete agreements may be for businesses with sensitive information or trade secrets, such agreements are rarely in your best interests. To make matters worse, it can be challenging to get out from under these contracts.
The terms of these contracts need to be examined closely by a trained eye, however. There may be circumstances that allow you to invalidate a non-compete agreement and get out from under its limiting terms.
3 Reasons Your Non-Compete Agreement May Be Invalid
Despite their potentially technical terms, non-compete agreements are nothing more than contracts. Thus, to be enforceable, your non-compete agreement must comply with basic contract principles. A non-compete agreement that fails to satisfy these requirements may be invalidated by a court.
Some of the reasons a court may decline to enforce a non-compete agreement include the following:
1. You Did Not Freely and Knowingly Sign the Non-Compete Agreement
Your decision to sign a non-compete agreement must be made freely and knowingly before the agreement will be legally enforceable. This means you must be given a reasonable opportunity to read and understand the agreement, and your decision to sign the non-compete contract must be your own voluntary choice.
Your signing of a non-compete agreement may not be “knowing” if any of the following apply:
- You were not given a copy of the non-compete agreement to review before signing
- The contract was not written in a font or size that could be easily read
- The terms were written in confusing jargon or with unintelligible words
- You did not have a reasonable amount of time to review the contract before being asked to sign, including the opportunity to seek legal counsel
Similarly, your decision to sign must be your voluntary decision. If your employer made threats to “ruin” you, or you were forced to sign the agreement under duress, then you may not have signed the non-compete agreement freely.
2. The Non-Compete Agreement Contains Unconscionable Terms
A court will be reluctant to enforce non-compete agreement terms that are overly broad or unreasonably restrictive. Restrictive terms that last into perpetuity or that act to restrict your employees throughout the country may be too restrictive.
A court reviewing a non-compete agreement with such terms may modify the terms and make them less restrictive, or the court may toss out the restrictive term altogether.
3. The Non-Compete Contract Violates a Public Interest
If you have a skill or knowledge that is especially beneficial to the general public, the court may choose not to enforce a non-compete agreement, even if it is an otherwise valid contract.
For example, suppose that you are a doctor in an underserved part of the country or that you possess specialized skills. The court may find that the public would not be served if a non-compete agreement were enforced that limited your ability to practice.
When to Seek Legal Help with a Non-Compete Contract Dispute
If you signed a non-compete agreement and are seeking to be released from its restrictions, you need an experienced legal eye to evaluate your options. Our knowledgeable team can help advise you on your next steps if you are looking to get out from under a restrictive non-compete contract.
Contact a Rhode Island business litigation attorney at the Law Offices of William M. Kolb, LLC and allow us to look over your non-compete agreement.