Can I be forced to sign non-compete?

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Can I be forced to sign non-compete?

I have worked for 2 years as an telecommunications engineer. Now my employer wants me to sign a non-compete restricting me from working for a competitor for 2 years. This seems completely unreasonable for a non-sales position. Is this legal and can they fire me for not signing it?

Asked on March 28, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, your employer can require you to sign a non-competition agreement at any time, and if you do not sign it, they may terminate you.

Non-sales staff may be required to sign a non-competition agreement.

You are likely right, however, that a two-year non-compete is probably excessive. While every case is different (some factors to consider include: your job; your level; the impact you could have working for a competitor; the other job opportunities you would have other than for a competitor), as a good rule of thumb, most non-competes should be for 6 - 12 months. Usually, only a very senior executive or former owner of a company could be held to a non-compete for  more than a year.

If a too-long non-compeition agreement is challenged--for example, you sign it; quit; then try to go to work for a competitor after, say, 7 months--a court might "blue pencil" it, or reduce it to a more reasonable level. So you could be held to a non-competition agreement, but if challenged, an excessive one might be judicially modified.


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