Are You Bound by a Non-Compete Agreement?

Most people never give a second thought to changing jobs. However, if you are working for any company located in New York, you may have signed a non-compete agreement. Under New York law, non-compete agreements are fully enforceable; however, in some instances, employers may be abusing the use of these agreements.

Understanding Non-Compete Agreements

In some instances, an employee who has access to trade secrets, client lists, or the future marketing plans of a company may be asked to sign a non-compete agreement. According to the U.S. Treasury, more than 18 million workers across the United States are subject to restrictive clauses that may limit their ability to remain in their industry after changing jobs.

The problem with these agreements is they often contain clauses that prevent an employee from seeking employment not only with local competitors, but with nationwide competitors. This can mean anyone who is bound by a non-compete agreement cannot find other employment in the field, regardless of changes in their lives, poor work conditions, or even when a company closes its doors.

Changes in New York

While fully enforceable under law, New York non-compete agreements are being viewed in a new light. This is primarily because employers are becoming far more likely to ask all employees to sign these documents. Because of the onerous nature of some of the clauses, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been clamping down on employers who force all employees, regardless of their company position, to sign non-compete agreements. Today, New York courts consider the following when deciding whether to enforce a non-compete:

  • New York non-compete agreements may be requested from sales, management or executive employees with access to certain company information. This may include company trade secrets, customer lists, or customer good will. Employees who may be developing software, or others providing unique services, may also be asked to sign a non-compete agreement.
  • New York employers who ask a potential employee to sign a non-compete agreement must be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the court if necessary, that they have a "legitimate business interest" in enforcing the agreement.
  • Finally, any New York employer who requests an employee sign a non-compete agreement must limit the length of time, and the geographical scope of enforcement of the agreement.

Contact an Attorney for Help

While these restrictions offer protections for new employees, those employees who are currently in positions where they were presented with a non-compete agreement on their first day of work may not know how these recent changes impact them. If you are employed in New York State, are considering leaving your current job, and you know you have signed a non-compete agreement, you should meet with an employment attorney to have the agreement reviewed. In many places, thanks to the new guidance offered by the Attorney General, you may be released from onerous clauses.

Attorney Christopher Q. Davis has the skills and knowledge to help employees fight back against non-compete agreements and move forward in their careers. Contact the Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis today to learn more by calling (646) 430-7930.