I unknowingly signed a non-competition clause and now im looking at getting a new job in a similar field. Can I do this?

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I unknowingly signed a non-competition clause and now im looking at getting a new job in a similar field. Can I do this?

I was not told about the non-competition clause while I was filling out papers at the start of my current job, I didn’t see it until about a week later when I was going through our company handbook. The clause states as follows

‘Upon termination of my employment for any rrason whatsoever, and regardless of any claims that either party may have against each other, I agree that for a period of twelve 12 monthsthereafter, I will not diresctly or indirectly compete with my employer by soliciting or performing any work of the nature provided by the employer for any customer of employer with which I had substantial personal contact and for whom I performed work while employed by the employer.’

Asked on June 11, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Nebraska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

You did not, from a legal perspective, "unknowingly" sign the clause if it was provided to (in the papers, etc. provided to you) prior to you signing: the employer does NOT have to draw your attention to it, and if you had the clause in your paperwork, the law presumes that you read, understood, and agreed to it--the law requires us to actually read before we sign. So if the clause was provided to you, even if you failed to read or notice it, you are still held to it.
This sort of nonsolicitation or noncompetition clause--to not work for your employer's customers--is widely regarded as reasonable and enforceable: the idea is, you cannot use customer contacts you only had because of your job to compete with the employer who gave you those contacts. You can work in your field, just not for customers of your employer.


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