While most workers are now at-will employees, a substantial number of employees have employment contracts. This is particularly true of high level executives and of people with unique technological or scientific skills. While these contracts are helpful in many ways in that they provide job security and guarantee certain benefits, they can become a bit of a problem when it comes time to leave an employer. Very often employers include what are referred to as non-compete clauses in these contracts, and those clauses can affect your career even after you leave the employer. That is why we strongly encourage you to have an attorney review your non-compete clause both before you sign your contract, and then again when you make a decision to leave the company.
Oregon Law on Non-Compete Clauses
In Oregon these clauses are governed by Oregon Revised Statute 653.295. In order for the clause to be enforced, three criteria must be met:
- The employer must inform the employee in a written employment offer at least two weeks before the employment begins that the non-compete agreement is required, or the agreement must be entered into upon a subsequent bona fide advancement of the employee by the employer;
- The employee must be an excluded employee as defined in Oregon Revised Statute 653.020; and
- The employee must have a protectable interest, such as having access to trade secrets.
There are other regulations as well. For example, a non-competition period cannot last more than two years after an employee’s termination. However, often times employers try to slip around these regulations by using non-solicitation agreements instead of non-compete agreements.
Non-Solicitation Agreements in Place of Non-Competes
Non-solicitation agreements come in two forms: non-solicitation of clients and non-solicitation of employees. Basically, these are clauses in your contract that prevent you from taking coworkers or clients with you when you leave. These agreements are specifically allowed by Oregon Revised Statute 653.295; that statute also says that the restrictions on non-compete agreements under Oregon law do not apply to these non-solicitation agreements. What this means is that savvy employers will include these agreements in contracts rather than including a non-compete agreement, because non-solicitation agreements are much more enforceable and often achieve the same goals of the employer. If there are a limited number of potential clients for the specific type of business, you could be prevented from continuing to work in your chosen industry after you leave the company if you are bound by this kind of agreement.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP
Employment contracts are often complicated documents. Even when they seem straightforward, certain phrases can have different meanings in a legal context than they do in everyday language. Your employer almost certainly has a legal team that has reviewed the non-compete clause with the company’s interests in mind. You deserve to have attorneys review the clause with your interests at heart, and we at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP have the qualifications and experience necessary. We can be reached at (503)389-1130, or you can contact us online by filling out our simple online form.