You've been diligently working for your employer for around 5 years. You even moved into a management role a year or so ago. When you got promoted, your new boss came to you with some documents to sign. One of them is titled "Confidentiality and Non-Compete Agreement". Your boss tells you to read through the documents closely and ask as many questions as you'd like. Afraid that asking too many (or even any at all) questions will mean you will lose out on this opportunity for career growth, you skim through, and sign on the dotted line.
Even though you like your job, you've got the itch to move forward with your career. You create a LinkedIn profile and within a week or two, a head hunter contacts you with "the perfect opportunity" with another company in your industry. Your head hunter then asks, "Do you have a non-compete with your current employer?" You panic... In this moment you remember that you signed a lot of documents that day. At least one of them was a non-compete. You feel stuck. Can you even change jobs?
If this hypothetical situation describes you the first step is to...
Breathe... And then,
find those documents you signed. This time, read through them carefully. Make sure you actually signed a non-compete, and not something else. If you signed a non-compete, read it through carefully. Pay close attention to what it says. Look for three things:
1. How long am I restricted?
Keep in mind that your agreement could have more than one term. For instance, you may be restricted from disclosing "Trade Secrets" forever, but your non-compete should expressed in a period of months or years. Underline this section.
2. Where am I restricted from working?
Most non-competes will provide some "scope" or "territory" in which you are restricted from working. Many companies will say something like:
- Within 50 miles of any business location, or
- Within any state that the company does business, or
- within the following zip codes...
Once you've found it, underline this section.
3. What am I restricted from doing?
In some circumstances, your agreement will restrict you from performing a specific job, or category of jobs. Others will be ambiguous/all encompassing. In situations where it is the latter, it may appear as though you cannot work for any "competitor" in any capacity. Once you've found this section, underline it.
I've done that. Now what?!?
Take your findings and compare them with the new opportunity you've been presented. Does it look like you would be in violation? Maybe your new opportunity has you relocating outside of the protected territory? Maybe you are changing industries entirely?
If you are lucky, a common sense analysis will point you in the right direction, and allow you to confidently move forward with the exciting new opportunity. In the event that like many others, your situation is not as clear, Contact Us as soon as you can. While every case is different, and we can't promise that there will or won't be a loophole in your agreement, we want to help guide you through the process so that you can progress in your career path with minimal anxiety. We are here to serve you and your needs, whenever you need us!
If you'd like to do some additional reading on the issue of Non-Competes in the workplace, feel free to read more by Clicking Here.