Are non-competes legal?
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Are non-competes legal?
I work as a project manager and want to take a new position at another company doing the same. My current employee said I will be sued if I take this position at another company. Is this a valid way a employer can make you stay at your current position?
Asked on August 29, 2011 Maryland
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 9 years ago | Contributor
First question--did you sign a noncompetition agreement? If you did, then subject to the limitations below, it is enforcable--i.e. you can be sued. If you did not sign a non-competition, your current employer has no grounds to stop you from working anywhere you want (though they could stop you from using confidential or proprietary information in doing so).
If you signed a non-competition, first look to its terms--it will never be enforced more broadly than its terms, so if you take any job not prohibited by it, that's fine.
Non-competition agreements also have to be reasonable in scope; courts will "blue pencil," or rewrite, overly broad ones to make them more reasonable. While every case differs, and you should speak with an employment attorney for precise guidance as to your situation, generally an employer can (if you signed the agreement) stop you from working in the same or similar position, at a company in the same market (so, selling to same customer base), for usually between 6 and 12 months. They can't stop you from working generally.
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