At the most fundamental level, a non-competition clause in an employment agreement that prohibits former employees from working for direct competitors. Valid non-competition agreements spell out the breadth of prohibited activities, the timeline of the restrictions and the geographic area covered. Many employees do not realize, however, that non-competition clauses and agreements are not always enforceable. If the employer designs an agreement that is unreasonable in scope, time, or geography, then the worker is free and clear.
HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in St. Louis, have time-tested capabilities interpreting and challenging non-competition agreements. Featuring national reach and local touch, HKM Employment Attorneys have the savvy and resolve to protect workers from unreasonable non-competition agreements. If you need legal assistance in this domain, know that you can contact us immediately for help.
The Reasonableness Standard Regulates Non-Competition Agreements
The legal standard in Missouri for non-competition agreements centers on the concept of reasonableness. Non-competition agreements are only valid and enforceable if the scope, time, and geography of restricted activities are reasonable in nature.
- Scope: Non-competition agreements must be limited in scope. Employers cannot create an exhaustive list of prohibited activities. The scope of prohibited activities must be related to legitimate business interests.
- Time: Non-competition agreements must be limited in time. Otherwise, an employer could prevent employees from ever working again. Non-competition agreements must be limited to a specific and narrow period of time.
- Geography: Non-compete agreements must be limited in geography. Employers cannot prevent employees from working with every competitor across the globe. Otherwise, employees might never find gainful employment. Non-competition agreements must be limited to a defined and constricted geographic area.
Overall, Missouri law requires employers to construct non-competition agreements in the least restrictive manner possible. If the non-competition agreement is overly restrictive, it becomes unreasonable and likely unenforceable.
Legitimate Business Interests are Required for Non-Competition Clauses
Missouri law limits the application of non-competition agreements to the protection of legitimate business interests. The exact definition of legitimate business interests may vary; the Missouri courts have basically narrowed it down to two categories.
- Trade Secrets: This type of information is private and confidential, held under lock and key by the employer. Trade secrets can encompass any business information or practices unknown to the larger industry and public. In that sense, trade secrets are essentially a type of competitive advantage.
- Client Lists: This type of information concerns the contact information and sales data for the employer’s clients. As such information could be crippling in the hands of a direct competitor, the Missouri courts allow employers to protect client lists.
On a related note, if the worker challenges the legitimacy of a non-competition clause, the burden of proof rests squarely with the employer. The employer must prove the legitimacy of their protected business interest.
Reach Out to a St. Louis Non-Competition Attorney for Legal Counsel
If you are a worker restricted by a non-competition clause, there is good cause to evaluate reasonableness on all levels. If your non-competition agreement is overly restrictive in scope, time, or geography, the Missouri courts may strike it down. That is where HKM Employment Attorneys can lend a hand, evaluating the details of your case and strategizing a suitable approach. With proven results protecting workers in many industries and from countless employers, please do not hesitate. Contact us immediately to jumpstart your case.