Non-compete agreements protect businesses from unfair competition when an employee leaves the company. The agreements typically include language that prevents sharing trade secrets or using your unique skills to help the competition for a specific length of time.
Non-compete agreements were initially only used for highly skilled employees, but in recent years, many companies have asked even low-level workers to sign non-compete agreements. This can limit workers’ ability to pursue better pay and better jobs. In New York, former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tried to crack down on overuse of non-compete agreements and pursued charges against Jimmy John’s, Law360 and EMSI.
However, that does not necessarily mean your non-compete agreement is not enforceable. Here is what you need to know about non-compete agreements in New York.
A non-compete agreement is enforceable if:
- It protects a company’s trade secrets or other special skills acquired during employment.
- It is for a reasonable amount of time and geographic region.
- It is not overly broad, so that it proves unfair to the former employee.
- It will not harm the general public.
Agreements may not be enforced when you’re fired
New York courts also will not usually enforce non-compete agreements when you were fired without cause. Being fired without cause includes being let go because of company restructuring, budget issues or downsizing of the business.
The rules about enforceability are rather broad, so knowing for sure may be difficult. Even slight variations in language can change the court’s opinion about what is and is not a valid agreement.
If you are unsure about the enforceability of your non-compete, you may want to reach out to an experienced employment law attorney. An attorney can review your agreement and help you determine its validity.