Signed A Non-Competition Agreement? Know Your Rights

When employees who work in such industries as technology, mass media, and others agree to work for their employer, they are often asked to sign what is known as a non-competition agreement. In most cases, they simply view this as yet another piece of paper requiring their signature, and thus sign on the dotted line without giving it much thought. However, once done, they may at some point wish they had read the fine print a bit more carefully. In many cases, these agreements can contain a number of clauses, some of which may be extremely strict and make it almost impossible to get a similar job should the need arise. If you are an employee who has signed a non-competition agreement, always know your rights in the event you need to take legal action against your employer.


Did I Sign A Legal Contract?

Yes. In almost all situations, a non-competition agreement will be viewed by a court as a legal contract between you and your employer. Specifically, a non-competition agreement states you will not perform the type of work you are now doing for an individual or company who is a direct competitor of your current employer. Also, these agreements are usually set up so that they will continue to be binding even after you leave your current employer. With many of these agreements, it is often stated a departing employee may not work for a direct competitor for several months or perhaps even a year or more, which could make it very difficult for you to find a new job in your current field.


Why Are These Agreements Used By Employers?

When an employer decides to make signing a non-competition agreement a condition of employment, it is usually because they are concerned about confidentiality. In these instances, confidentiality will be focused on making sure any employees who leave the company will not be allowed to disclose various concepts or other information that a competitor will be able to use to their advantage.


Can I Have An Attorney Review The Document Before I Sign It?

Absolutely, and it is always recommended you allow a Miami non compete lawyer to examine any agreement given you by your prospective employer prior to signing the document. In doing so, your attorney can make sure the agreement contains clauses that are fair and reasonable to you and your situation. If your attorney does bring up any concerns about the agreement, it is best to hold off signing it until you have spoken to your employer to see if any clauses in question can be changed or excluded from the agreement.


What If I Already Signed The Non-Compete Agreement?

If you have already signed a non-competition agreement but are now starting to wish you had not, you may think you have no rights whatsoever. However, the good news is that is not the case at all. Though it may make the task a bit more difficult, having an experienced Miami non compete lawyer representing you will allow them to open negotiations with your employer and their legal team in an effort to get the matter resolved. If this fails, your lawyer can then argue your case in court if necessary.


Can a Non-Competition Agreement be Voided by a Court?

Yes. However, to see this happen, your lawyer will need to prove to the court that the agreement should be voided for one or more reasons, such as it contains terms that would be considered unreasonable, you were forced to sign the agreement under duress, or other similar reasons. If this is the legal route you ultimately choose, expect your employer to put up a fight in their effort to make you stick to the terms of the original agreement. However, if your attorney has built a strong case based on substantial evidence, there is a good chance the court could rule in your favor.


What Are Unreasonable Terms?

If you are trying to get out of a non-competition agreement you have already signed, your Miami non compete lawyer will likely argue it contains terms that are simply unreasonable based on your current employment situation. For example, if you are working for a technology company and your non-compete agreement states you will not be allowed to work in the finance or medical industry upon leaving the company, this could be considered an unreasonable demand by your employer. However, since technology is of course a part of virtually all industries today, your attorney will need to clearly show your leaving to work for another employer will not compromise your existing employer in any way.


Breaking An Existing Law

If there are parts of your non-competition agreement that are in direct violation of established public policy or clearly violate existing laws in any way, a court will not hesitate to void the agreement and release you from its constraints. In the eyes of the law, any part of the agreement that would prove to be harmful to you financially or even physically or emotionally can be grounds for making it null and void.


A Buyout Clause?

In some non-competition agreements, a buyout clause is contained that will allow an employee to get out of the agreement if they agree to pay the employer a particular sum of money. If you are in the position to do so and have had little success pursuing other avenues so far, this may be your ticket to freedom. But before jumping at this chance, remember that your employer will need to clearly show that having you working for a competitor will cause them specific financial damage. If your employer is unable to show how they would be damaged financially, it is still best to let your lawyer take your case before a judge.


Employer Misconduct

In some situations, employees leave their jobs due to employer misconduct or harassment from other employees of the company. If they have signed a non-competition agreement, it is likely the employer will claim they have violated its terms in some manner. However, if you were fired without reason or have evidence showing you were the victim of sexual harassment, workplace discrimination, or were made to work in a hostile work environment, your attorney can use this to your advantage. Since most employers do not relish the thought of getting negative publicity, they will often work with your attorney to find a compromise everyone can live with in the weeks ahead.


Finding New Employment

Finally, if you have exhausted all reasonable avenues of being released from your non-competition agreement, it is still possible for you to find new employment, even if it is not in the industry of your choice. If this is ultimately what happens, it will be best if you inform your new employer of the fact that you are still bound by a non-competition agreement. Even if you are in an industry that is in no way related to your previous job, you should still give your new employer a copy of the existing agreement. This is crucial, especially if you left your previous job on less-than-good terms. If your previous employer is determined to make trouble for you, they may still try to find some way to do so, which is why you should use full disclosure with your new employer.


If you have signed a non-competition agreement but now have questions regarding your legal rights associated with the document, schedule a consultation soon with an experienced and knowledgeable non-compete attorney.


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