Under Illinois law, non-compete agreements are common components of employment contracts. A non-compete agreement or non-compete clause in your employment agreement designates that you cannot work in such a way that is in direct competition with your current employer (as defined by your employer). This could include things such as taking a second job with a competing company or starting your own business in the same industry. In some cases, Illinois non-compete agreements are also called restrictive covenants.
Why Do Illinois Non-Compete Agreements Exist?
The goal of an Illinois non-compete agreement is to prevent you from taking insider knowledge of your company and using it to gain an advantage for your own business or for a competing company. Your actions could hurt your current company, as you might steal customers, ideas or trade secrets. The non-compete clause is for the benefit of your current employer and protects their interests. That being said, these agreements are very punitive against the employee, and you should consider doing whatever you can to not sign these or fight against them.
Who Must Sign Illinois Non-Compete Agreements?
Not all employment contracts include non-compete clauses, and their use is up to the discretion of your employer. In most cases, signing the agreement will be a condition of your continued employment, so you don’t have the option of declining if you wish to work for a company that requires an Illinois non-compete agreement. However, there are certain exceptions.
Under the Illinois Freedom to Work Act, low-wage employees, meaning those who make less than $13 per hour, cannot be required to sign Illinois non-compete agreements. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled these agreements too restrictive for minimum-wage workers, potentially causing them undue hardship in finding employment. There are no restrictions on workers making more than $13 per hour. Further, if you are not a low-wage employee, the courts will not enforce overbroad non-compete agreements.
What Happens to Illinois Non-Compete Agreements after You Resign or Get Fired?
Any Illinois non-compete agreements should include provisions detailing the time period during which you cannot compete. The agreement will remain in effect even if you are fired from your job or choose to resign. You must abide by the agreement until you have reached the end of the specified period. Once you have reached the end of the non-compete period, you are free to seek employment wherever you like.
How Are Illinois Non-Compete Agreements Enforced?
The Illinois courts sometimes enforce non-compete agreements, so you could be in for a court battle if you violate your contract. The burden of proof is on the employer in these cases, so your employer will need to prove that your actions have harmed the organization.