Can a former employer keep you from working for a competitor?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a former employer keep you from working for a competitor?

I was recently laid off from a job that I worked at for 20 years. I was given a severance pack but when the paperwork came in., I read that I cannot work for a competitor. I was an assistant manager for a home improvement retailer and this is what I have done for the past 30 years.

Asked on January 25, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Oklahoma


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Fortunately, your question indicates that you are in Oklahoma. Your state, unlike many others, does not generally enforce non-competition agreements, so your employer can't keep you from working for a competitor. (They may *try* to do so, such as by suing you, but in your state, such an attempt or suit should not work.) There are some limitations on what you can do, however: basically, you cannot solicit (or be involved in soliciting) the "established" customers (e.g. ongoing or frequent/repetitive) of your former employer to do business with you or your new employer--that is, you can't personally be involved in selling to the customers of your current employer. You also cannot use any proprietary information (e.g. customer lists) you obtained from the former employer for your own benefit or the benefit of a new employer.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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