Can my employer restrict me from joining another firm having a similar business

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Can my employer restrict me from joining another firm having a similar business

I am a student on a OPT Visa. My present employment contract says I cannot join another company in the same line of business or any company whom I have had the chance to interact or contact during the course of my employment with my existing employer. This restriction applies for a period of 1 year from the date of termination of my employment with my present employer.

Asked on December 30, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, this restriction is legal. It is known as a "non-compete" agreement. The main reason that employers require employees to sign these agreements is to avoid having to compete with a former employee who knows internal trade secrets. These contracts also generally prevent employees from going after a company's customers and using their intellectual property for their personal gain. While legal, however, such agreements must not be too broad in scope (e.g. cannot cover too large a geographic area, cannot last longer thsn 3 years, etc.). Also, check to see if your if your new job will, in fact, put you in direct competition your former employer (e.g. will the new position use different technology, service a different market or provide a different type of service). If you can find a meaningful difference between the 2 jobs, than you can use this to show that the exact terms of the agreement will not be violated by your new employment. Also, a non-compete agreement is valid only if it protects trade secrets, customer lists or some other legitimate business interests. If you have no access to, or knowledge of, sensitive company information, you can argue that the non-compete is unenforceable as an unreasonable restraint on your ability to obtain new employment.


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