When it comes to non-compete agreements, employees and employers alike should understand what is acceptable. When your employer asks you to sign a non-compete agreement, you should understand its exact terms and consider its effects on your future employment.
Businesses ask employees to sign non-compete agreements for a few reasons. A business might want to want to prevent its employees from working for a competitor, where they might share proprietary knowledge. Companies also don’t want their employees to start their own competing businesses.
If you are concerned about a restrictive covenant not to compete from your previous job, or one that you are about to sign, a contracts lawyer in Arlington, Virginia can provide legal advice. HKM Employment Attorneys LLP serves Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, Alexandria, and McLean.
Under Virginia law, non-compete clauses are enforceable if an employer can demonstrate:
- the restriction is no greater than necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate business interest
- the agreement is not excessive in restricting the employee’s ability to find another job or livelihood
- the promise does not violate a clear mandate of Virginia public policy
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete agreement refers to a contract clause that restricts you from engaging in business in certain locations or markets for a set period after your employment ends. This period is usually 1 or 2 years. From your employer’s perspective, the idea is to protect itself from losing employees with critical inside knowledge to competitors.
Enforcing a Non-Compete Clause
Sometimes a non-compete agreement may be overly restrictive to the extent of affecting your future career pursuits. In such a case, it does not necessarily mean that, no matter what, you must abide by it.
The burden to enforce a non-compete covenant in court lies squarely on an employer to show its validity. Courts consider several factors in their assessment of the legality of a non-compete clause including whether the geographical or time limitations placed on an employee are reasonable or greater than what is necessary to protect an employer’s legitimate business interest.
Courts look at whether an employer has overreached by using an ambiguous or overbroad clause whose reach is difficult to determine. However, a Virginia court is likely to validate a covenant not to compete written in clear and precise language to establish restrictions, which are only limited to a business’s legitimate necessities.
If you are an Arlington, Virginia, employee and have either signed a non-compete agreement or are considering signing one, you should consult a qualified attorney. Contact the law firm of HKM Employment Attorneys LLP for legal advice on non-compete clauses.