It is common practice for many employees to sign a non-compete agreement upon their hiring. However, many wonder how legally binding these documents are, and how employees can fight them if they are too restrictive to future employment opportunities. The New York employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam explain.
What is a Non-Compete Agreement?
A non-competition agreement prohibits an employee from working for a competitor or opening a competing business for a certain period of time after an employee leaves a job. A non-compete can be a stand-alone document or be included in the employment contract.
Are Non-Competes enforceable?
New York State permits non-compete agreements to a degree. In order for the non-compete to be valid, it must:
- Be necessary to protect the employer’s legitimate interests;
- Does not impose an undue hardship on the employee;
- Does not harm the public; and
- Is reasonable in the time period and geographic scope
In general, an employer’s legitimate business may include protecting confidential information such as trade secrets and taking job skills to an employer that is specific and specialized in that company.
However, the non-compete must not be so restrictive that an employee can never find new employment. To test the enforceability of an 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.
However, if only parts of the agreement are too restrictive, the court will only enforce parts of the non-compete agreement. In general, if the agreement has flaws or is unreasonable, the court may invalidate the entire document.
Do I have to sign a New York non-compete agreement?
There is not a law saying you have to sign a New York non-compete agreement. However, if you do not sign, the employer may terminate you or choose not to hire you if you refuse to sign the document.
Unfortunately, your employer can legally terminate your employment or rescind their employment offer if you don’t sign the agreement. Not every example is cause for a wrongful termination or discrimination case. It will come down to the reasonableness of the agreement and the terms and conditions outlined in the employment position.
What if my employer asks me to sign a non-compete agreement after I’ve already been working for the company?
If you have been working for a company and then suddenly your employer asks you to sign a non-compete agreement, this is completely legal. But it may not be legal for your employer to take adverse employment action against you depending on the facts of your case and the terms of the non-compete.
You’ll need a New York contract and non-compete attorney to review the circumstances.
What should I know before signing a non-compete agreement?
Prior to starting a new job, there are a few things you should ask your new employer before signing anything. These items include:
- Can you negotiate the terms if something seems unfair?
- What businesses are considered competitors?
- How long does the non-compete last once you leave?
- What geographic area/regions does it cover?
- Will your company compensate you for signing the non-compete?
- Can you have a lawyer review the language?
Remember, this contract can dictate your future. Don’t sign it and forget. To protect yourself now and in the future, take the time to review the terms of the non-compete agreement. If you have questions surrounding the validity of a non-compete agreement you have already signed, the employment attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam can review your employment contract and determine your legal rights.
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 in New York state, contact the employment contract attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam. We will review the terms and protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.