Non compete agreements are commonplace in many of today’s employment contracts. While your employer may have had you sign such an agreement, not all non competes can be upheld in a court of law. If a non compete agreement is too harsh and unfair to the employee, such as setting an unrealistic amount of time before the employee can work for another employer in that field, it can be nullified.
What is the Purpose of a Non-Compete Agreement?
The point of a non compete agreement is not to punish an employee for seeking a job elsewhere or to force them to stay with their employer forever. Non compete agreements are used to give employers protection in the form of a commitment from their employees and to protect their investment in their employees. An employer has a right to protect their assets, and some of their most important assets are their employees and trade secrets. However, a non compete agreement is not always enforceable if it is unfair to the employee, as is the case with many fast food restaurants. Fast food employers are forcing employees to sign non competes that are likely not enforceable just to scare the employee into staying with the employer, as reported by Mother Jones.
Overly Strict Non-Compete Agreements are Not Enforceable
Colorado courts may uphold a non compete agreement so long as it does not unfairly punish the employee. However, the court’s decision must also weigh the investment of the employer into the employee. As such, if the employee spent a large amount of time and resources training the employee to be able to do the job, and the employee knows trade secrets that could potentially lead to serious financial losses for the employer, a more strict non compete agreement may be upheld. A typical non compete agreement may be for two years, but Colorado courts have upheld non compete agreements that were for twice that length of time.
Were You Threatened or Forced Not to Work for Another Employer?
In addition to a non compete agreement that is unenforceable due to the length of time of not working and the hardship that it imposes on an employee, an area where your employer may be in the wrong is if they threatened you. They may have actually broken the law, as defined in § 8-2-113, if they used threats, force, “or other means of intimidation to prevent any person from engaging in any lawful occupation at any place he sees fit.” Even if you did have a non compete agreement that would have otherwise been enforceable, there is a chance that you may be able to get out of it if you have evidence of employer wrongdoing by forcing or threatening you. Similarly, if your employer violated your employment contract in any way, or committed an unethical act such as discriminating against you because of a protected characteristic, you need to contact an attorney to discuss your legal options for making this non compete agreement void.
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