If I have signed an agreement not to go to work within 20 miles of my present business location, can I be sued if I do?

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2011

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If I have signed an agreement not to go to work within 20 miles of my present business location, can I be sued if I do?

I am an esthetician and I am thinking of going out on my own and renting a space one has come available 12 miles from my present location. I want to know what she could do if I am on my own and less than the 20 miles away?

Asked on August 25, 2011 Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you signed what sounds like a non-competition agreement, that agreement is enforceable. So if you go ahead and breach it and the other side (your current employer) becomes aware, you could be sued. You could be sued in particular for what's known as "specific performance"--that is, for the court to issue an order forcing you to obey the agreement, and punishing you if you don't.

Non-compeition agreements are enforceable as long as they are not too broad in time or place. If they are, they are usually not invalidated, but rather cut down by the courts to an enforceable level. Generally, for non-executive employees, 6 months to 1 year is reasonable; and whether 20 miles is reasonable depends on the facts--e.g. where you are located, how many miles might someone drive for your services? Will you be pulling from the same client base as your current employer? If you are, it's probably enforceable.

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