How best to get out of a non-compete clause?

UPDATED: Jul 13, 2011

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Jul 13, 2011Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

How best to get out of a non-compete clause?

Approximately 2 years ago, I was laid off and signed a severance agreement that includes a “cannot compete clause” in exchange for a lump sum payment. I now have an opportunity to work for a company that could be considered a competitor. Is there any way the clause might not be enforceable? Even if it doesn’t hold up, my original employer could jeopardize my situation by threatening the other company, or me, right? Is my best course of action to ask my previous employer to waive the clause? Is there a gentler way of asking this (e.g. “Please clarify companies considered as competitors”)?

Asked on July 13, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Consult with an employment attorney before doing anything, and let him or her read the agreement, evaluate your specific situation (job level, title, industry, etc.), and determine what your obligations are. While non-competition agreements can be enforced, they can't be open-ended--that is, they generally can't stop you from competiting forever, but usually only bind you for a certain period, typically 6 months to 2 years. They also usually only apply to either a defined geographic scope (e.g. within a certain radius) or within a defined market niche and type  of job (e.g. you couldn't be a field sales rep for a software company, but you could work in marketing in software, or field sales in hardware)...all in all, there must be some limitations on it, because courts will not interpret these agreements to stop you from working in a field in which you are qualified forever. Instead, they read the agreements to provide a reasonable amount of protection for the company, but not more than was necessary. Therefore, you should consult with an employment attorney, who can advise you as to what the limitations of the agreement seem to be--i.e. to what extent and for how long a court will enforce it--and then represent you, if necessary, if the former employer tries to enforce it past you consider appropriate.

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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption