It is standard for employers to have new hires and those accepting internal promotions or transfers into more sensitive positions to execute noncompete agreements. A noncompete agreement limits the ability of an employee to take a job with a competing company or start a business in the same industry and thereby protects an employer from the theft of their trade secrets.

What may have seemed reasonable at the time of your hiring might now seem like a potential end to your career. After all, how are you supposed to support yourself if you can’t work in the field where you have education and experience? Is it sometimes possible to challenge a noncompete agreement?

The courts do not always uphold noncompete agreements

Depending on your circumstances, the courts may agree with your assertion that the non-compete agreement represents a hardship to you as a worker. For example, if your employer had you sign the documents after you had already started your job without any compensation for the agreement, it may not hold up in court.

Additionally, if the courts find it to be unconscionable or too broad, they may choose not to enforce it. The courts expect there to be a time limit on the agreements so that you may eventually reenter your preferred profession.

They often also look for geographic limitations. Restricting your right to start or work out a similar business in the same city or state is reasonable. Forbidding you from seeking any job or opening any company anywhere is not reasonable and would leave you at a significant disadvantage as a worker.

Discussing the terms of your noncompete agreement, the situation that has led to your former employer trying to enforce it and your aspirations with someone familiar with employment law can help you make good decisions about a noncompete agreement and your future.