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When a noncompete becomes too restrictive, what do you do?

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2023 | Employment Law

Noncompete agreements are meant to protect a company’s trade secrets and competitive advantage.

However, there may be times when noncompete agreements can become overly restrictive. If it comes to a point when it already impacts your ability to make a living, what should you do?

Read before you sign

Some employees may see signing documents as simple formalities, so they may simply sign without reading the content of the agreement. While this may be okay in certain situations, it would be wise if you do not do the same. Read the agreement carefully and watch out for these signs:

  • Excessive geographic limitations: Does the noncompete restrict you from working in a broad geographic area, such as an entire state or country?
  • Extended duration: How long is the validity of the agreement? If it lasts for several years, it can prevent you from pursuing your chosen career for an extended period.
  • Overly broad job categories: What type of work within your industry are you restricted from working in? Does it cover a wide range of job categories? Does it extend to unrelated industries?
  • Unrealistic industry changes: Certain industries evolve rapidly. Check if a noncompete doesn’t account for these changes, for it can prevent you from adapting to new market demands or emerging opportunities.
  • Vague or ambiguous language: Does the document contain unclear or ambiguous terms that can lead to disputes? This can leave you uncertain about what actions are allowed and what’s restricted.

And remember, noncompete agreements should also provide you with something in return for agreeing to the restrictions. This may come in the form of financial compensation or specialized training. When there is no consideration, it can make the agreement unjustly burdensome.

Safeguard your future and livelihood

While noncompete agreements are a common part of the employment landscape, it is essential to strike a balance between protecting a company’s interests and ensuring your ability to make a living.

If you believe the noncompete agreement is too restrictive, consider discussing your concerns with your employer. In some cases, employers may be willing to modify the agreement to make it more reasonable. Negotiation can be an effective way to find a compromise.

If negotiations are unsuccessful, and you believe the noncompete agreement is unjustifiably restrictive or unenforceable, consult your attorney about the possibility of legal challenges.