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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 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.


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