On an employee’s first day on the job, an employer may ask the employee to sign a pile of paperwork. Employees may be unaware of every document they sign because they are ready to start their new job. One of the legal documents an employee might sign is called a non-compete agreement or a non-solicitation agreement. When the employee decides that it may be time for a career change down the road or finds another employment opportunity, the non-compete agreement could come back to haunt them.
Providing Excellent Legal Counsel for Cincinnati Employees
If you are one of the many Ohio employees considering finding a new workplace but are concerned about the non-compete agreement you signed, you are not alone. HKM Employment Attorneys are ready to review your signed employment contract, severance agreement, or stand-alone non-solicitation agreement. We can defend you and your rights if you have been accused of violating a non-compete agreement. We can help you understand your legal obligations and rights and answer any questions you have.
What Is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-compete agreement is sometimes called a restrictive covenant or a covenant not to compete. A non-compete agreement is a contract between an employee and an employer. The employee agrees not to indirectly or directly compete with their employer’s business. Employees must agree not to compete with their employers after leaving for a specified period. Under Ohio law, non-compete agreements can only be enforceable if the employer can prove that the employee took a copy of the employer’s confidential customer list and wrongfully solicited customers after they left or if the employee took the employer’s trade secrets and used them after leaving.
Types of Non-Compete Agreements
There are three main types of non-compete agreements employers ask employees to sign. A traditional non-compete agreement prohibits employees from working for or with competing companies during a specified time frame within a defined geographic area.
A nonsolicitation agreement prohibits workers from interacting with or soliciting clients, stealing suppliers, or poaching employees from their previous employer.
Finally, a confidentiality agreement, also called a non-disclosure agreement, prohibits workers from using or sharing information their previous employer would like to keep private and confidential. Confidential information could include marketing strategies, client lists, upcoming product launches, secret recipes, and other proprietary information.
When are Non-Compete Agreements Enforceable?
Not every non-compete agreement is enforceable in Ohio. Ohio courts will strike down non-compete agreements when they violate public policy, even if the employer and employee voluntarily signed the contract, which is otherwise legally valid. Specifically, in Ohio, non-compete agreements need to meet the following requirements to be enforceable:
- The agreement needs to be in writing and signed by you
- The agreement must further a legitimate business interest
- The agreement must be reasonable in time, area, and line of business
An employer cannot place an unreasonable burden on an employee regarding a non-compete agreement. Generally, the broader the restriction, the more likely a court will strike down the agreement. Courts recognize that previous employees need to have the ability to earn a living after they leave their previous employer. Legitimate business interests include confidential business information, trade secrets, specialized training, and relationships with clients or customers.
Can My Previous Employer Sue Me for Violating a Non-Compete Agreement?
Yes, when an employee signs a non-compete agreement and violates it, their previous employer May pursue a breach of contract lawsuit. They may file a breach of contract lawsuit, but their ability to enforce the contract depends on whether it is legally valid. Courts do not always enforce non-compete agreements. The employer must prove that the agreement must be enforced to protect their business interests. They will consider the following factors:
- The absence or presence of limitations as to time and geographic space
- Whether the employee represents the sole contract with a customer
- Whether the employee possessed confidential information or trade secrets
- Whether the agreement seeks to eliminate competition that would be unfair to the employer or merely seeks to eliminate ordinary competition
- Whether the agreement seeks to stifle the inherent skill and experience of the employee
- Whether the benefit to the employer is disproportional to the detriment of the employee
- Whether the covenant operates as a bar to the employee’s sole means of support
- Whether the employee’s talent was developed during the period of employment, and
- Whether the forbidden employment is merely incidental to the main employment
The best way to determine whether your non-compete agreement is enforceable is to discuss your case with a skilled attorney.
The Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Attorney
If you have questions regarding a non-compete agreement or are being accused of violating a non-compete agreement you signed, contacting an attorney as soon as possible can help you significantly. You will benefit from working with an experienced non-compete agreement attorney who can help you negotiate a favorable resolution. If you have not yet signed the non-compete agreement, an attorney can help you by reviewing the document and identifying any red flags. For example, if the restrictions are too broad, your attorney can help you negotiate a fair non-compete agreement.
Additionally, an attorney can help you shorten the duration of a non-compete agreement. If you have violated a non-compete agreement, an attorney may be able to argue that the non-compete agreement is unenforceable in court successfully. Being represented by an attorney can help you defend yourself in court and protect your financial and legal interests. We are dedicated to helping employees through the process by pursuing the best outcome possible in each case.
Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Attorney
Did you sign a non-compete agreement? Do you have questions about your rights to be hired by another employer? If so, HKM Employment Attorneys are ready to advocate for you and your rights. We have an in-depth understanding of Ohio employment and contract law. We will review the agreement and help you understand your legal options for obtaining another job. You may be entitled to compensation if your rights have been violated. Contact the Cincinnati-based HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule a case evaluation with one of our experienced employment attorneys.