Is my non-compete enforceable?

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Is my non-compete enforceable?

I’m a plumber, and I moved from the PA to SC and got a job with a local plumbing
service company. 3 days after I started my boss asked me to sign a non-compete
that I could not work for another company within a 20-mile radius or start my own
company in a 20-mile radius of his company. Since I did not receive any
compensation for signing it and since it was 3 days after I started, is it
enforceable? I want to go out on my own, but within the 20-mile radius. Any
advice is greatly appreciated.

Asked on August 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It is enforceable against you if you quit or resign, or are validly fired "for cause" for doing something very wrong (stealing from work, unauthorized absences, disobeying supervisor instructions, not reporting hours properly, etc.). That is because you did receive compensation (called "consideration") for signing it: you kept your job (your employer could have terminated you for not signing it). Since the employer has given you a job, that provision of a job binds the agreement--it is the consideration or thing of value you receive in exchange for your promise to not compete. 
However, if you are laid out or fired without cause (i.e. without you doing something justifying or supporting termination), then the employer will have deprived you of the consideration or thing of value (employment) given you exchange for your promise to not compete, and so the agreement would not then be enforceable. 
Note that a two year term is longer than is usually enforced unless you had been a company owner (e.g. sold your plumbing practice and come to work for the buyer); typically, non-owners can only be held to not compete for 6 months to one year. So it is likely that a court would not enforce a full 2 years against you.


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