How long is a non-compete agreement good for?

I subcontract for a company that made me sign a non-compete clause. I left without a letter of resignation (just quit selling for them) and found other employment. Now, almost 2 years later, I started working for a different company and my former employer has gone to the new customers I have built up since leaving thecompany (the only thing we have in common is we use the same buying group) and has told them they will be sued for buying off of me. I have no copies of the non-compete. I was told to sign it to receive my compensation for my sales. How do I stop him from harassing my customers?

Asked on November 29, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

While there is no firm rule for how long a noncompete is valid for--

* Generally, the higher level the employee, the longer it can be enforced (and longest for a former owner of a company)

* The industry, the employee's job, and the market all are factors, too

--for non-owner staff, 6 months to 1 year is a common length; therefore, if you left this employer 2 years later, it may be too late for them to enforce.

Also, there are NO grounds for suing your customers--they did not sign the agreement and have no obligation to your former employer. Even if he could still take action, he could only take it versus you, who were a party to the agreement, not against non-parties; non-parties are not bound by contracts or agreements. If the former owner is falsely (without good grounds) threatening to sue your customers, he may be committing tortious interference with your business, and you may have grounds to sue him. You should consult with an attorney about your options to make him desist.

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