Is a pdf employment contract without both signatures legal?

I have an employment contract with my current employer that was never fully signed by both of us (I put on my digital signature.) I’m looking to change employers and I’m wondering if this could be a problem. There is a non-compete clause in the contract that I don’t believe I’ll be breaking as my current employer is a service provider for SMBs and my prospective employer is a service provider for enterprise-level companies. The companies provide similar products, but the protective employer’s are much more powerful and advanced. Side-by-side, there is no doubt which company has the advantage.

Asked on August 26, 2011 Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, to address the second issue--a non-competition clause has nothing to do with which company is bigger, which is smaller, which has the competitive advantage, etc.; that is irrelevant to enforceability or validity. So whether this contract would be enforceable in the situation you describe--as a general matter--will depend entirely two things:

1) its terms--what is ostensibly covered by it?

2) is it too broad in geographic scope, time, or industry(ies) covered--courts do hold that a noncompetition cannot prevent someone from being able to earn a living, and will "blue pencil" an overbroad non-competition agreement to reduce its scope to what is considered a reasonable level (generally, the higher level you are, the more restrictive the agreement may legally be)

Second, as to whether it is enforceable against you if you signed it by your digital signature--probably it is. Since (presumably) your employer offered or presented the agreement to you, then if you accept it, that would consitute a binding agreement. Your digital signature could be sufficient to show acceptance.

You should consult with an employment attorney, who can evaluate the circumstances of signing and terms of the agreement and advise you of your rights. Good luck.


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