Can I be forced to sign non-compete?

UPDATED: Mar 28, 2012

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 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.

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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