You have worked at your current job for some time, but get a once-in-a-lifetime career advancement opportunity at a competing firm. However, you remember that you signed a non-competition agreement that bars you from accepting the position. Now you are in a dilemma because you cannot figure out if the agreement you signed is enforceable in Washington.
Perhaps you got laid off and cannot apply your particular skill set anywhere else other than at a competitor of your former employer. Or maybe, you want to leave your job and start a business that competes in the same industry.
Employers draft and enforce non-compete agreements to protect their business interests from unfair competition practices in the industry. However, contracts run the risk of being unreasonable and unenforceable because of their restrictions.
An experienced employment law attorney in Bellevue can advise and help you understand your rights. They can also help you fight unreasonably restrictive non-competition agreements. HKM Employment Attorneys specializes in helping clients achieve justice and receive their due in the workplace, regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector.
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete clause is an agreement that an employee will not work for their employer’s competitors should they decide to leave the company. The agreement will likely have different terms and conditions in regard to working for competing organizations within the same industry. In some cases, employees have to agree to the contract as a condition of their employment.
Employers can prepare non-compete agreements as a separate document or include them in their employment contracts or separation agreements. In addition to employees, independent contractors, business partners, or vendors may also be asked to agree to a non-compete contract.
Are You Subject to a Non-Competition Agreement?
A non-compete agreement is only legally binding if it meets the following reasonable restrictions:
- It must not impose restraints on you (the employee) more than what’s reasonably necessary to protect your former employer
- The restraint on your future employment must also be reasonably necessary to protect your employer’s goodwill or business
- The restraint must not lead to undue harm to the public due to your lost skill or service
Additionally, the non-competition agreement cannot be unreasonably broad concerning the period or geographic area that the employee’s work is restrained.
Are Non-Compete Agreements Enforceable in Washington?
Non-compete agreements are generally enforceable by Washington courts. However, for a non-compete clause to be valid and enforceable, its restrictions must be reasonable. Additionally, your employer must base it on Washington law.
As of 2020, a new Washington non-compete law went into effect that affects existing and new agreements. As per the law, contracts that don’t meet set standards will be void in the state. All non-competes must comply with the new law and will only be enforceable if:
- An employee earns over $100,000 annually, while independent contractors must make over $250,000 annually from the employer
- The employer discloses all the agreement’s conditions and terms during or before making the offer. They should also compensate the employee if they are already employed.
- The employer compensates laid off employees for the duration of the period when they remain subject to non-compete agreements
- The contract does not cover periods over 18 months
What’s more, any non-competition agreements that were applied outside the state are void. Except in rare circumstances, the law considers non-competition covenants extending beyond 18 months after your employment’s termination unreasonable and unenforceable.
Employers can face penalties for enforcing non-compete agreements that don’t comply with the new Washington law.
How Effective is a Non-Compete Agreement?
Washington courts have invalidated some agreements over the years that were not drafted according to the stipulations listed above. Therefore, for a non-compete agreement to be effective, the employer must form a valid and complete contract. They must also provide you with valuable training and marketable skills in return for your promise not to compete.
Washington has no bright-line rule determining when a non-compete contract is valid and enforceable. Therefore, employers often use attorneys to draft these agreements to ensure maximum protection and enforceability against former employees.
Hence, it’s pertinent that you contact and consult a non-compete agreement lawyer in Bellevue to discuss your situation or hire them to represent you if you feel your non-compete contract is unreasonable.
Why Should You Choose HKM Employment Attorneys?
If you feel aggrieved by your employer in Bellevue you should consider calling the law office of HKM Employment Attorneys. The non-compete agreement lawyers at our law firm are experts in employment law and work with clients to identify their risk exposure, draft and negotiate contracts around minimizing it, and ensure legal compliance.
If you face an alleged breach of contract in your non-compete agreement, a non-compete agreement lawyer in Bellevue, WA, will represent you by protecting and advancing your interests during a settlement agreement or in court.
Reach out to our Bellevue office today to review your employment agreement with one of our attorneys and receive experience-based legal advice.