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Can I Be Fired For Refusing to Sign The Non-Compete?

Apr 1

Employers will implement non-compete agreements for a variety of reasons, including the protection of the employer’s legitimate business interests. However, when being asked to sign this agreement, you may feel like it limits your ability to seek other employment opportunities. And, if you refuse to sign, could you be terminated? The answer will largely depend on the factors surrounding your case. However, if you have been fired for refusing to sign an employer non-compete agreement, here is what you need to consider.

#1. If you refused to sign the non-compete and your employment offer was rescinded.

While your New York employer cannot require you to sign a non-compete agreement, it is completely legal that they rescind your employment offer or terminate you if the agreement was given after you had already started working.

However, if your employer uses the non-compete as a reason to terminate you, but there have been discriminatory practices taking place–like the non-compete was specific to some employees, making it difficult for anyone to willingly sign–you may have a wrongful termination case.

In such instances, the non-compete agreement is no longer valid. Plus, you have every right to take legal action against your employer. If possible, keep written records of all events that led up to the termination. Next, get in touch with an employment lawyer as quickly as possible. They can help you navigate complex laws and file a lawsuit.

Here are a few damages you can receive as part of your wrongful termination settlement.

#2. You refused to sign the non-compete because it was too limiting to future career opportunities.

Because non-competes restrict a person’s ability to work for rival firms, workers are often left with fewer opportunities to grow their careers. This is especially true for executives and technical employees.

However, remember that courts are reluctant to enforce non-compete agreements that prevent the worker from seeking any type of employment after termination. Additionally, some non-compete agreements may contain a payout clause, wherein the employer agrees to pay a definite amount if the employee upholds the contract. Although this is not a standard, it may be included.

Since non-compete agreements are negotiable, you should consider working with a New York non-competes agreement lawyer to shape the contract as per your needs.

New York has specific rules on the enforceability of non-compete agreements. In fact, they are only enforceable if they are:

To test the enforceability of the non-compete agreement, the court will review the employee’s job duties, the company’s business interests, and the language of the agreement to ensure it is not completely restrictive to future employment.

#3. You were asked to sign after you had already started employment with the company.

If you were asked to sign a non-compete agreement after already having started working for the employer, it is legal. However, if your employer takes adverse action against you because you choose not to sign, the legality becomes case-by-case specific.

The first factor of consideration is if the non-compete would have been enforceable in the first place under New York laws. Secondly, the court will need to determine if you felt coerced into signing and if you were offered money to do so. Should the court feel as though you were taken advantage of or treated unfairly because of the terms of the agreement, you will have a case.

The enforceability of employer non-compete agreements can be difficult, especially if your industry is highly competitive. However, your rights to future employment prospects should not be so restricted that you feel stuck staying in a job you don’t want, or in an environment where you do not feel appreciated.

If you have concerns about your non-compete agreement or any action taken against you for refusing to sign, Brown Kwon & Lam can help you through the process.

#4. You were tricked into signing the non-compete agreement

Certain employers can use trickery and false promises to make you sign a non-compete agreement. For example, they may tell you that the contract only applies to a specific employer, but then enforce it no matter who you work for.

Naturally, this is enough grounds to challenge the employer non-compete agreement. Since verbal promises are difficult to prove, try and get them into writing. Consider sending an email to your employer requesting them to explain the promises. Once this is done, you can easily prove that you were duped into agreeing to the contract.

#5. Your employer doesn’t have any confidential information to protect

If your employer says that you need to sign a non-compete agreement because you have access to trade secrets, they must produce sufficient evidence to support their statement. In other words, the employer has to show that the information they have isn’t meant for public consumption.

Many businesses source their leads from readily available public information, such as phone books, directories, and the internet, among other things. Note that this does not include customer lists or unique sources.

However, your employer cannot lay a singular claim on a chamber of commerce directory. And, in case this happens, you can easily get out of your New York non-compete agreement.

Enforceability of New York Non-Compete Agreements: Brown Kwon & Lam

New York non-compete agreements can be complicated and can greatly impact your future employment. If you have concerns about your non-compete agreement, contact the employment contract attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam. We will review the terms and make sure your rights are not being violated. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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